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Source : 17/10/2000 Northampton Chronicle and Echo

The Jesus Army has drawn up blueprints for transforming the former Cannon cinema into a multi-million pound worship and day centre.

Elders from the controversial Christian sect have handed their plans for the Northampton venue to borough council officers, and will now have to wait on a decision before builders move onto the site.

If given the go-ahead, the art deco cinema's orchestra pit will be turned into a baptism area, and the second floor will be converted into a sprawling cafe area, with a kitchen and store rooms.

But perhaps the biggest transformation would be if demolition gangs were allowed to knock through the three auditoriums, creating one main worship area which could hold a congregation of more than 1,000.

In the plans, the organisation's agent, Kettering-based Gotch, Saunders and Surridge, said: 'The building at present is in various states of disrepair and decay.'

'The Jesus Army Charitable Trust purchased the lease on the building with a view to upgrading/conversion to a worship centre and a day centre.'

'The conversion works could be beneficial to the overall preservation of the building and would guarantee its longevity.'

Members of the Jesus Army have already been given planning permission for the art deco cinema to be used for the worship centre.

But they have now submitted the latest plans for listed building consent, which must be granted before any alterations are carried out.

John Campbell, spokesman for the Nether Heyford-based Jesus Army, said: 'We believe that the plans for the former Cannon cinema will be of benefit to Northampton.'

'It will provide a valuable amenity in the town centre, not only for members of the Jesus Army, but for the other people in the town.'

The religious sect has been involved in talks with architects for several months, honing the plans for the cinema which was opened in 1936.

The Jesus Army managed to buy the lease in March, 10 months after the Chronicle & Echo first revealed the sect had plans to turn it into a base for evangelical services.

Elders had faced stiff opposition from borough councillors, who had at first rejected planning permission amid fears over the traffic which would be generated during the services.

But in January, Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott overturned the decision after the Jesus Army launched an appeal.