AMBITIOUS plans to bring the pictures back to Paisley town centre for the first time in 25 years have been put on hold amid a row over funding.

The Paisley Community Trust (PCT) has been seeking to buy and transform the Bargain Buys building into a five-screen community cinema with a bar and restaurant, rooftop cafe, digital skills academy, cinema heritage museum and community spaces.

Now Renfrewshire Council has been accused of “blocking” PCT’s key bid for almost £20million from the UK Government’s Levelling Up Fund.

The money would have paid for the purchase of the site, as well as construction work.

Despite the council handing PCT a £15,600 grant to produce an application for the fund, it later refused to sign a declaration in support of the bid.

Meanwhile, the council successfully scooped almost £40m from the fund for the AMIDS South project, which will strengthen transport links between the town centre and a manufacturing innovation district next to Glasgow Airport.

The fallout has in part led to the resignation of PCT secretary Tony Lawler.

The cinema project has been teed up as 'Project One' of the Paisley Vision for 2030 – a 10-year blueprint unveiled by Renfrewshire Council, the Scottish Government and Scotland’s Towns Partnership which imagines ideas for what the town centre could look like in a decade.

Now the trust is demanding clear answers from council chiefs as to whether they are really committed to the cause and has called for support for another bid in the second phase of applications next year.

PCT has insisted that, if the council does not offer its backing, members would be left to consider whether there was a future for the group.

At the annual general meeting of PCT, chairman Gary Kerr said: “After Renfrewshire Council blocked an application to the UK Levelling Up Fund in June for their ambitious digital community hub and community cinema project, PCT are now asking Renfrewshire Council to back their plans.

“The council publicly claimed their continued support for PCT and a potential second phase Levelling Up Fund application.

“We are now asking, what are the council going to do to convince and prove to us they will actually follow through?”

Andy Campbell, vice-chair, added: “Does the council want to see, and therefore fully support, the creation of a digital community hub in the high street which includes a community cinema and delivered in partnership with PCT for and on behalf of the community?

“If the answer is ‘no’ then it is clear the council do not wish to listen to the needs of the community nor believe in their own published Vision for Paisley Town Centre 2030. That being the case, it would be with regret PCT would be wound up.

“If it is ‘yes’ then they will have our commitment to work tirelessly to make this happen.”

In February, PCT signed a strategic partnership agreement with the council so they could work together to deliver the new cinema – something which has not been seen in Paisley since the closure of The Kelburne in 1997.

It is hoped the project could deliver a £40m economic boost to the area, as well as creating jobs.

The Secret Collection museum store in the basement of the building would remain, with an upgraded entrance and access, and it is hoped Bargain Buys would continue to trade in a retail unit on the ground floor.

A council spokesman said: “We recognise how committed the PCT are to the regeneration of the town centre and have tried to help them deliver on their ambitions over the years. Since 2014, they have been awarded more than £65,000 of council money to help develop various cinema proposals.

“Our wider commitment to regenerating Paisley town centre can be seen through the ongoing work to transform the town’s unique cultural venues and outdoor spaces – including the museum and town hall – which will help drive new life and footfall in the years ahead.

"We have also supported other community-led venue projects which are currently being delivered, such as PACE Theatre’s Exchange project.

“This will be complemented by the £38million project to transform transport links in the north of the town, linking the town centre and local communities to businesses, learning and jobs and to the emerging Advanced Manufacturing Innovation District next to Glasgow Airport.

“The Levelling-Up bid prepared by the PCT in June 2021 had a number of significant gaps and this was explained in detail to trust representatives at the time.

“These included a lack of clarity over how the construction contract would be managed, an inadequate approach to managing the high risk of project costs exceeding the budget, a lack of supporting evidence for how the trust’s future financial projections had been calculated and no demonstration of the gap in the market locally for a facility of the size proposed.

“The submission had also not considered how the trust (and, by association, the council) would comply with planned new UK laws to stop public money distorting commercial markets, set to replace EU state aid rules.

“As the body responsible for submitting the bid, we would have been accountable to the UK Government for how this large sum of public money would be used. The issues with the proposal could not have been fixed before the deadline of June 2021 and thus we were unable to support it.

“We support the idea of a town centre cinema in principle as part of a vibrant town centre regeneration and are willing to continue to assist the PCT but the project as it currently stands could not be supported.”