BOLTON is only big enough for one town centre cinema, council officers have admitted ahead of a crunch planning meeting.

But they have recommended that councillors approve Crompton Place’s plans for an 11-screen cinema — despite the fact work will start on a nine-screen cinema in Market Place in the next few weeks.

The rival shopping centres both submitted applications to build a cinema in a bid to bring more families into their businesses in the evenings.

However, planning officers have stated that competition cannot be a factor when making a decision about individual planning applications, even if it means the success of both schemes is put in jeopardy.

In a report to the planning committee, which meets on Thursday, Bolton Council officer Martin Mansell recommended Crompton Place’s application to convert the vacant TK Maxx unit, the first floor of New Look and Games Workshop into a cinema be approved as “acceptable and welcome”.

Included in the blueprint are also plans to convert 10 internal retail units into four new restaurants.

Mr Mansell added: “Practically, it is accepted that demand is only likely to be sufficient for one town centre cinema at the scale proposed by the Market Place and Crompton Place schemes.

“It has been put to the council that, because of this, the two applications need to be considered against each other.

“However, it is generally accepted that the planning system should not seek simply to interfere in the market where there is competition.

“On this basis it is not considered that there is a case for distinguishing or choosing between the schemes in terms of town centre policy and so it should be for the market to determine which of the schemes — or if indeed both — are realised.”

In May the owners of Crompton Place, Santander, threatened legal action as councillors backed the Moorgarth Group’s £15 million refurbishment of the Grade-II Market Place, which includes a cinema and restaurants in the vaulted basements.