Closed Debenhams store in Exeter could be turned into 'boutique' cinema

The store is located on Bedford Street. Credit: ITV West Country / Chapman Taylor

The former Debenhams store in Exeter could be converted into a boutique cinema, if council planners approve of the plans.

An application has been submitted to Exeter City Council which would see the building in Princesshay house a four-screen cinema across several floors, selling alcohol, food and drink.

Montagu Evans LLP, on behalf of Purple Investment Management LLP, said the scheme would "contribute to the vitality and economy of the city centre".

As well as cinema screens, the plans include a large foyer for a bar and seating area.

The application also outlines that views to the cathedral are a key consideration for the cinema company when selecting the site.

A statement with the application, submitted to Exeter City Council, said: "This would provide a focus for activity during the day and into the evening, complementing the existing retail offer in the vicinity and vibrancy of the square.

“The proposed development will comprise the use of part of the ground and third floors of the existing building as a boutique cinema. For reasons of commercial confidentiality, the proposed operator cannot be named at this stage."

An artist impression of the cinema in Princesshay. Credit: Chapman Taylor

It added: “The proposed cinema will include four screens. Additionally, a large foyer area will be provided, including a seating area and a bar, which will offer a range of alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages, together with a select menu of hot and cold food to be served from the kitchen to the rear of the bar. Cinema tickets will also be sold from the foyer area.

“The scope to introduce a top floor foyer, seating and bar area specifically to highlight the views to the cathedral is a key consideration for the cinema operator when selecting the site for its proposed operation in Exeter.”

The application says proposals for the other areas on the ground, first and second floors would be welcomed, if they complement the cinema and bar.

If successful, the proposals would see the roof height increased at the rear of the building between 2.5m and 3.5m.

The statement acknowledges it would be seen from certain viewpoints, including from Cathedral Green, but stresses: "However, in our opinion, these views will be limited in number and the extent of what might be seen is minimal.”

Exeter City Council planners will have their say on the application, which is for the change of the use of part of the ground floor and the third floor of existing building from retail to cinema (Sui Generis) with an ancillary bar / restaurant facilities and the creation of a roof extension.

It was announced in January 2021 that the city's Debenhams Store would not be reopening after the coronavirus pandemic.

Despite being purchased by the Boohoo Group plc, it was decided the physical stores would be closed down for good.

Credit: Daniel Clark, Local Democracy Reporter

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