VISITORS TO an open day organised by the Pentecostal church which owns the former cinema building at 25 Church Road found something they didn’t expect – a baptismal font.
The font has long been rumoured to have been installed despite repeated denials by the church – Kingsway International Christian Centre – that it hadn’t.
A local resident who uncovered the existence of the font said: “One of the big, big, issues over the last five years is about just how much trust can be put in what KICC says.
“Some months ago KICC submitted a – swiftly withdrawn – application for a public entertainment premises license for 25 Church Road. “The application included plans for the basement and stage, both of which had marked on them a large, covered area called ‘baptismal font’.
“I was intrigued by this because KICC’s other converted cinema in Hoe Street, Walthamstow has one of these built into the stage which is confirmed in photographs on the architects’ website.
“Given the mention of a font being built into the stage in the plans for 25 Church Road I asked the planning consultants during the open day whether they knew anything about this.
“They told me that they had already been asked this and that, as far as they knew, there wasn’t one.
“When I pressed them about why it appeared on ‘as built’ plans submitted with the licencing application to Bromley council they told me that they had been assured by KICC that this was an error. “The plans were ‘aspirational’ for the future and not indicative of the actual position.
“I asked them again whether they could categorically confirm there was no font. “They said they could, based on what they had been told.
“I then asked if I could have a look for myself, to which they agreed.
“This is what I found. “On the stage were a line of large hatches “I decided to lift one and, bless me , what do I find but what is very clearly a large, tiled swimming pool like structure, complete with steps down, mosaic tiles and round underwater swimming pool light.
“It’s fair to say the planning consultants were mortified to the point of being speechless and I challenged them about how on earth residents could trust KICC and its plans when KICC’s own planning consultants had no idea what was actually in the building and had been given incorrect information.
“This made my blood boil. “KICC’s consultants were clearly embarrassed when we uncovered it.
“More importantly KICC have clearly installed the font for religious services long before the planned mixed use planning application to include D1 religious worship.
“It leads me to question what else is inside the building which is yet to be revealed and whether building a font before D1 use is granted is a breach of planning permission. “I’ve written to Bromleys planners today to demand they investigate.”
COUNCILLORS ANGER AT BEING ‘MISLED’
THE DISCOVERY of the font does not inspire trust in KICC as an organisation said Crystal Palace ward councillors Angela Wilkins and Richard Williams in a joint statement to News From Crystal Palace.
The councillors – who were both present when the pool was uncovered – said: “We were both keen to hear KICC’s proposals for using their property for community use and would have liked to believe they are sincere.
“But this discovery of something they had repeatedly denied the existence of does not inspire trust in them as an organisation. “We are also sceptical that the rates they are proposing to charge for hire of rooms would be affordable to local groups.
“Cllr Angela Wilkins emailed Bromley planning officers on Sunday with the following questions and has been promised a reply within the next day or two.
- Are your officers aware that this baptism pool exists?
- Does this baptism pool require any permissions which are not in place?
- Can we not deduce from the presence of such a facility that the building is already being used for religious services, in contravention of existing permissions
Cllr Richard Williams commented: ” I am really disappointed that I and the local community have been misled in this way: it brings the integrity of KICC into question.”
UPDATE: COUNCIL OFFICERS KNEW POOL WAS THERE
BROMLEY COUNCIL OFFICERS knew the pool was there. In an email to a complainant, John Stephenson, acting planning investigation, development control manager, said: “The Council have been aware of the internal alterations which have been previously investigated by my enforcement team at the above address , these changes (internally) which includes the pool beneath the main stage do not require planning permission and as such are not a breach of planning control.
“This information was previously supplied to council by KICC when a licence application with plans attached was submitted to the council and later withdrawn. “I can confirm that at this stage no evidence of the use of the building for religious services has been established which would be considered to be in contravention of the permitted use of the building.
“The council values the participation of the public in the planning and planning enforcement process. “Although no breach of planning control has taken place in this instance, I would nevertheless, like to thank you for drawing the matter to my attention. ”
This article was first published on 7 October 2014 in News from Crystal Palace. Reproduced with permission from and copyright Jerry Green – Author