• Tue. May 21st, 2024

Abbey Cinema has lease issues with Abingdon Town Council


Aug 30, 2022

AN independent cinema in Abingdon is having difficulties negotiating a new lease for the building.

The Abbey Cinema, in Abbey Close, first opened in December 2018 after working in partnership with the owner of the old Abbey Hall venue, Abingdon Town Council.

Husband and wife, Ian and Sue Wiper, who run independent Evesham cinema The Regal in Worcestershire are behind, run the cinema and helped revamp the space.

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The current lease for the building expires in November 2022 and is up for renewal with the town council.

Oxford Mail: Sue Wiper inside the AbbeyCinema in 2018Sue Wiper inside the AbbeyCinema in 2018

However there have been some issues with the lease, which has been discussed for almost three years, which have led to the town council holding an emergency confidential meeting last week (Thursday, August 25) to discuss the problems.

In an email to cinema members, Mr and Mrs Wiper said they had appointed their own professional negotiators to agree terms and to commission a financial report on the state of the building prior to renewal.

The reports allegedly found that “considerable investment is required” of about £625k to fix some issues which the cinema owners said they would pay £400k of.

However, they claim the council then sent a “draft” solicitors notice at the start of the month claiming that if they did not sign by the end of August “they should anticipate instructions to give notice of termination”.

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Oxford Mail: Ian and Sue Wiper outside the Guildhall in 2018Ian and Sue Wiper outside the Guildhall in 2018

In the email, the married duo said: “It may be a misunderstanding but given the solicitors' letter, we are very concerned and wanted to let you know of our concerns.

“We are terribly upset because we are made a fantastic recovery from the pandemic – thanks to you and to our staff and this is unsettling, worrying and potential commercially disastrous as you will appreciate.”

In a statement released by the town council, a spokesperson said the council discussed the lease for three hours at the meeting and found some keys area “substantially different” from the original lease.

Mayor Andy Foulsham said: “We concluded that there was a lot of common ground between their proposals and our original ones, and so have instructed our representative to go back to them to resolve the remaining issues, which will hopefully lead to a lease being agreed that will secure the long-term future of the cinema in Abingdon.”

Oxford Mail: The cinema at the Unicorn TheatreThe cinema at the Unicorn Theatre

Councillor Neil Fawcett added: “There has been no lack of intent on the part of the town council to negotiate a new and longer-term lease.

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“The aim of the letter was to get a response from the cinema after many months of trying. The current lease does end [in November] – it is important that we get an agreement going forwards.”

Read more from this author

This story was written by Gee Harland. She joined the team in 2022 as a senior multimedia reporter.

Gee covers Wallingford, Wantage and Didcot.

Get in touch with her by emailing: Gee.harland@newsquest.co.uk

Follow her on Twitter @Geeharland

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