PLANS to demolish the bulk of Bournemouth’s former ABC cinema and build a block of 62 flats have been comprehensively rejected.

A planning officer said the scheme would be against a string of council policies.

And he said there was a “lack of information with which to fully assess the impact of the scheme”.

The decision leaves it unclear what will happen to Westover Road’s two former cinemas, which were bought by Libra Homes for a total of £6.15million. The sale followed the Odeon chain’s decision to move to a new multiplex at the BH2 centre.

Libra has now seen two applications for the Odeon site rejected as well as its one bid to redevelop the ABC.

The developer had intended to keep the ABC’s frontage but demolish the rest to make room for a six or seven storey building which also included two shop units.

But planning officer Simon Gould said the scheme would mean the loss of a heritage asset and would have a detrimental impact on a conservation area.

The applicant had failed to demonstrate the site could take the size of development proposed, he said. The scheme did not include enough retail space or meet policies on car and cycle parking.

Mr Gould said “it is not in the public interest for such an iconic and historically public-facing building to be used as private residences”, adding that this would place “undue pressure on the appearance of the facade”.

Libra Homes had said the cinema’s original Art Deco facade could be restored as part of the development, if it survives under cladding added in the 1960s.

But Mr Gould said the developer had shown a “non-committal approach” and the council could not have confidence the 1930s frontage would be preserved.

He said the developer should have removed some cladding to examine the original facade.

“There is no reason not to investigate this and it is unclear why the applicant would move forward without being fully informed on this aspect,” he wrote.

The plans attracted 24 letters of objection.

James Weir, heritage and conservation officer for Bournemouth Civic Society, said: “This is a fantastic outcome for another significant piece of Bournemouth’s cultural and architectural history and another hopeful sign of a turn in the tide which has swept away so much of Bournemouth’s heritage.

“We and other heritage bodies now urge the owners to keep the building in good repair and to work with potential cinema operators, with a focus on appropriate modernisation and bringing it to life once more.”

The ABC opened as the Westover Super Cinema in 1937. Originally seating 2,500 in a single auditorium, it was the largest cinema built in Bournemouth and a prestige venue for the ABC chain.

It was turned into a twin-screen venue in 1970, with a third screen added in 1973.

It was the last high street ABC in the country when it closed in January, followed the next month by its near neighbour the Odeon.

In September, the art house chain Curzon Cinemas revealed it was interested in coming to Bournemouth, and possibly in reopening one of the Westover Road cinemas.