BASILDON’S new town centre cinema will be “closed within six months” if hundreds of homes are not built in the town centre, a former council leader claimed.

Labour councillor Gavin Callaghan, who spearheaded plans to overhaul the town centre, fears shelving masterplan proposals will have a huge impact on the ten-screen Empire Cinema.

However, the suggestion has been shot down by new council leader, Tory Andrew Baggott, who toured the East Square site last week.

While Empire bosses have confirmed they remain committed to the project.

Mr Callaghan said: “The Empire Cinema in Basildon will be closed within six months of opening if the town centre masterplan is shelved and never built out and if we have another 12 months of delay.

“Shops have already said they won’t re-open and the place will fall further and further into being a ghost town. All of our masterplan was underpinned by economic analysis from Cushman & Wakefield.

“They have been clear throughout, without the footfall that residents living in a town provide, leisure and retail dies.

“So Empire won’t open that cinema if plans for the regeneration are shelved or the consultations are re-run time and time again like a third runway at Heathrow airport.”

Basildon Council have now released an inside look into the build, and produced the video attached for residents to see.

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Justin Ribbons, Empire Cinemas CEO, said: "Empire Cinemas remains committed to the Basildon East Square development, and supports the council in their continued work towards enhancing the town centre.  

"We look forward to opening early 2022 and believe the leisure scheme will thrive and make the town centre the heart of community once more and for many years to come."

The previous Labour and Independent-led administration had plans for up to 4,000 high-rise homes in the town centre, a 5,000-seat arena, new transport hub and improvements to the Towngate Theatre.

Empire are set to be handed the keys to the site in July, while it’s hoped the build will be open to the public in February 2022.

Slamming the claim, Mr Baggott, said: “The cinema plan was put together before there was even talk of the masterplan, so the idea of that not going ahead meaning the cinema will fail doesn’t even make sense.

“Adding 4,000 homes into a town centre without the infrastructure isn’t going to make the town centre a success.

“We will be fully consulting with the public, asking if they don’t shop at Basildon where do they shop and why to get a jist of what people want to see.

“We want to bring energy back to the town, the kind where you go home and want to come back.”

The consultation is now live and can be found on the Basildon Council website.