WETHERSPOON bosses say they are committed to transforming a listed former cinema into a pub as part of a huge £145million project to launch 18 new sites.

The company says it is still pushing on with its plans to open a pub in the former State Cinema in Grays Town Centre which is set to cost up to £5million and has been on an going saga.

Back in December cinema campaigners hit out at the pub chain over plans for the landmark cinema building.

Cinema Theatre Association bosses say plans to convert Grays’ State Cinema into a pub by Wetherspoons must not compromise the building’s Grade II* Listed status.

The ambitious plans were given consent in 2018, but there was no deadline for works to start.

The plans have been delayed as a result of the pandemic and various discussions with Thurrock Council and English Heritage.

Chain boss Tim Martin has said the ambitious plans, for the new sites across the country, will start within weeks of its pubs re-opening fully on May 17 but is also based on Boris Johnson not chopping and changing rules for hospitality businesses.

A total of 18 new pubs will open – 15 in the UK and three in Ireland – and ‘significant upgrades’ will be made to scores of current pubs.

But Mr Martin, who is also opposed to vaccine passports, says the UK expansion and improvements to existing pubs is dependent on the Government opening up society and never returning to lockdown.