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Source : 13/07/1999 Northampton Chronicle and Echo

Heritage groups have backed a controversial Christian sect's plan to turn Northampton's 1,900-seat former Cannon Cinema into a church.

The Bugbrooke based Jesus Army wants to hold services in the vacant Abington Square building, and councillors meet tomorrow to decide whether to give them the go ahead.

Cinema and theatre campaigners have welcomed the proposal as a far better solution for the neglected building than the last plan which would have seen it become a café-bar.

In submissions to Northampton Borough Council, the Theatres Trust and the Cinema Theatre Association both wrote they preferred the Jesus Army application.

When the Chronicle and Echo revealed earlier this year that the sect wanted to use the cinema, Jesus Fellowship communications director John Campbell explained why it was interested.

He said: 'We want to use it as a hall and day centre - open during the day for the benefit of the whole of Northampton.'

A report by principle planning officer Rita Bovey to councillors advises them to grant consent.

She wrote: 'The proposal will bring a meaningful use back into this building which would otherwise remain derelict and unused on a very prominent site in the town centre.'

The Cannon closed in 1995 after 60 years of showing films, and in May this year Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott ruled a proposed conversion into a café-bar could not go ahead.

It has since suffered from vandalism on the outside and damp fungus is growing on interior furnishings.

Tomorrow's meeting of the development control sub-committee of the borough council will decide whether to grant permission.