A COMMERCIAL cinema operator will be asked to bankroll a £3m revamp of Abingdon’s Guildhall.

New, cut-price designs for refurbishing the 1960s hall were revealed to Abingdon Town Council’s Guildhall Committee for the first time last night.

The council had hoped to spend £4.4m, but a bid for £1.9m from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) was rejected in April. Last night, architects Lewandowski Willcox showed the committee what it could get for closer to £3m.

But before the revised plans were revealed the committee voted on whether the press and public should be excluded from the meeting.

Before the vote Marilyn Badcock said it was too early to show the public the plans.

But mayor Angela Law-rence disagreed and said: “There is nothing that needs to be secret.”

Committee chairman Iain Littlejohn said the new plans saw a modern-looking glass foyer either reduced in scale or completely taken out.

He said: “The brief was to reduce the cost but retain the major elements of functionality – the cinema, a multi-purpose hall, a café bar and improved access.

“The designs I have seen pretty much do that.”

The council has £1m to put towards the project and plans to ask a commercial cinema company if it will bring some of the other £2m needed.

Mr Littlejohn said: “The next stage will be to talk to commercial operators and get a better understanding of our options.”

He said that operator could be a firm like the Picturehouse chain which runs Oxford’s Phoenix in Walton Street. Failing that, Mr Littlejohn said, the council could apply to grant-giving bodies including the National Lottery for funding or investigate running the hall as a charity.

As a last resort, he said, the council would ask the public to fund it.

It is hoped a new-look hall will attract an extra 100,000 visitors to Abingdon and generate some £700,000 a year.

The council currently spends £150,000 a year running the hall, and the revamp is hoped to cover that cost, at least in part.

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