Change of use refused!

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Bromley Council reject Crystal Palace cinema conversion plans

Jerry Green

CONTROVERSIAL plans to turn a former cinema in Crystal Palace into a church have been rejected by a Bromley council planning committee – on the chairman’s casting vote.

Kingsway International Christian Centre had wanted to turn the former cinema and bingo hall in Church Road into a church after buying the building from Gala bingo hall. The move has sparked a massive groundswell of public opposition from residents and traders – the vast majority of whom want the building turned back into a cinema.

But the future of the building could now be uncertain after a letter from KICC’s agents for the application stated that if planning permission was not forthcoming the building would just be allowed to fall into disrepair.

At the council’s plans sub-committee meeting on Thursday December 17th Cllr Sarah Phillips (Con. Clock House), moving the motion for refusal, said keeping the building as D2 use was about how Crystal Palace would remain in the future. There was not a shortage of D1 uses – churches – in the area.

“Keeping D2 use will be good for business and cultural reasons and the viability of the future of Crystal Palace” she said.

Cllr John Getgood (Lab, Penge and Cator) said the Triangle area of Crystal Palace “was a special community all of its own with small artisan businesses developing very, very nicely – and that needs to be supported.

“There’s nothing wrong with having another church. The problem is this doesn’t come from that community. It’s being imposed on that community. If it was already in the area I could see a good reason for allowing it. This is a wandering tribe looking for a home.”

Cllr Getgood, who recalled that in the late 1950s he used to go to Saturday cinema in the same building, said parking caused by the arrival of the church would be intolerable for people living in the area.

Cllr Alexa Michael (Con Bromley Common and Keston) said she did not find the officers’ report to committee about the application particularly helpful. “A lot seems to mention things that aren’t planning grounds. There seems to be a great demand for leisure. Cinemas have to offer multiplexes if they are to survive economically.

“The chances are they would draw in people from outside the area. Any type of use will draw in fairly large numbers. I’m not convinced the reasons for refusal are strong.” She asked for a further report and to arrange for a members site visit.

Cllr Peter Dean (Con. Kelsey and Eden Park) said he had been about to make some of the points made by Cllr Michael. “It’s not a great report. We’re not looking at an application for a cinema.”

He said he could understand the concerns voiced by Crystal Palace Cllr Tom Papworth (Lib Dem) who gave a videoed address to the committee.

“But I have a concern that if this application is refused residents will end up with exactly what they don’t want. This could be won on appeal. The two main reasons for refusal are that a major entertainment facility is going to be lost. You’re replacing a bingo hall with a church – how contentious is that?

“They are going to operate a great number of community facilities. On the face of it that’s not such a bad idea if you don’t know the area.”

On traffic and parking he said that if there was one area in ‘our borough’ that was used to handling large numbers of parking it was the Crystal Palace area. The traffic report prepared by the applicant actually put the parking element in perspective, he said

“The grounds for refusal are dubious. I’d like more thought to go into this.” he added.

Cllr Getgood, responding, said: “The church community facilities do not come out of that community – they are being imposed on them. There are occasional large entertainments in Crystal Palace park but they are not twice a day on Sunday. This is a regular imposition on the people of the area and it’s not fair for them to put up with that.”

Councillors voted three – three with committee chairman Cllr Gordon Jenkins (Con. Bickley) voting for the application to be refused. Cllr Jenkins then used his casting vote, saying: “I’m not one of those who bends with the wind. The application is refused.” Cllr Dean asked for his vote against to be recorded.

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16 Responses to Change of use refused!

  1. Mark Dunford December 17, 2009 at 10:22 pm #

    Great news. Thanks must go to everyone who supported the campaign over the past six months and more. Let’s hope we can work together to find a solution to benefit all concerned. Mark Sarah Luke

  2. PGordon62 December 17, 2009 at 11:58 pm #

    A great turn out on a cold night and we probably lost a few supporters in the maze of the civic centre. I was lucky enough to be in the chamber for the refusal and it was pretty tense. I feel common sense won today with the help of better speakers on our side of the discussion. Apart from when we were told off for clapping it all went very well!

  3. Andy Bodycombe December 18, 2009 at 12:01 am #

    Excellent news and news that has warmed my frozen Copenhagen toes ! An important result (which I assume KICC will appeal) but it really is just the start of a longer campaign. Let’s hope that the level of support and the sense of community continues and continues to grow. Well done campaign team for all your hard work and I look to hearing more details about just how close it was. . . .

  4. John Hough December 18, 2009 at 9:20 am #

    A Result! As a local resident who does not often get involved in such issues but attended the planning meeting, I wanted to congatulate the team that have organised this first stage of the campaign. I am very impressed and grateful for all your efforts. The successful result was, I am sure, largely as result of your work. Thank you.

  5. Stuart Mayes December 18, 2009 at 11:37 am #

    CONGRATULATIONS – Your wonderful campaign has been justly rewarded! I wish you every success with bringing a cinema back to the Palace.
    A very HAPPY CHRISTMAS and NEW YEAR to you all!

  6. JK December 18, 2009 at 12:29 pm #

    Congratulations to everyone involved. You’re efforts and hard work have been magnificent and appreciated by the vast majority of the local community. As has already been mentioned both here and in other forums, this is only the first part of the campaign to prevent the change of use. No doubt KICC will appeal against the decison, and dealing with that appeal is the next stage of the campaign.

    The refusal by Bromley at the meeting was only by the thinnest of margins: one vote. The decision at appeal could easily go in KICC’s favour. Those councillors who were in favour of approving the application by KICC for change of use have given in their comments clues as to what made them consider the application as fit for approval, and I feel it is imperative that the campaign consider these clues and deal with them in the objection to any appeal by KICC against the refusal, so as to ensure that those concerns are properly dealt with and any appeal also refused.

    Cllr’s Dean and MIchael said that there was too much in the reports they had to go through that did not deal with matters in the planning application, and Cllr. Dean even stated “..we are not looking at an application for a cinema.” It is all very well to loudly say the local community wants the building to be used as a cinema, but that is not what Bromley will have to consider at any appeal. It is the contents of the appeal, the application and supporting documents by KICC for a church and about a church, and it will always be those ‘church-related’ issues raised in and by the application and supporting documents that the good coucillors of Bromley will consider again. Any number of those councilors who did object against the application the first time could well be swayed, and their position changed at appeal into votes of approval. Similarly, the concerns raised by councillors who were in favour of approval needs to be resolved so that those councillors might reconsider their position and decide to vote against at the appeal. So, I hope objections to any appeal by KICC will deal with the actual issues in the planning application, and not just be about preferring a cinema to a church at 25 Church Road.

    Good luck everyone. Fingers crossed!

  7. Rob D December 18, 2009 at 4:17 pm #

    Well done to the campaign team for all their efforts and thanks go to Annabel for speaking at the hearing and to the supportive councillors.

    I must admit, in a way I’m glad I couldn’t make the meeting. I’m not sure I would have been able to stay quiet.

    “Cinemas have to offer multiplexes if they are to survive economically.” http://www.nonmultiplexcinema.com/independentcinemas.aspx

    “The chances are they would draw in people from outside the area. Any type of use will draw in fairly large numbers. I’m not convinced the reasons for refusal are strong.” It’s not just about numbers, it’s about car use and the existing KICC figures are 75% and the City Screen figure is 15%.

    “It’s not a great report. We’re not looking at an application for a cinema.” One of the KICC’s main arguments was that the building’s current planning use was redundant. Therefore demonstrating the viability of a cinema is a perfectly reasonable challenge to that argument.

    “You’re replacing a bingo hall with a church – how contentious is that?” 1,250 local residents wrote letters of objection, 2,443 sent postcards, 6,734 signed a paper petition, 4,832 signed an online petition and 5,832 joined a Facebook group so all in all, I would say very.

    “They are going to operate a great number of community facilities. On the face of it that’s not such a bad idea if you don’t know the area.” I’m afraid when Pastor Ashimolowo signed a petition against the UK Sexual Orientation Regulations anything they may ever offer from KICC premises became of no relevance to me on ethical grounds. They can hand out free cash if they want. I’m not interested and I’m certain most local residents would agree.

    “On traffic and parking he said that if there was one area in ‘our borough’ that was used to handling large numbers of parking it was the Crystal Palace area. The traffic report prepared by the applicant actually put the parking element in perspective” Yes, it showed that there would be no parking spaces whatsoever within 400m of my house every Sunday and that was derived using the greatly massaged car attraction figures submitted in the Transport Assessment. Large sporting events are held three or four times a year at most and special arrangements are put in place to deal with the increase in traffic.

    “The grounds for refusal are dubious. I’d like more thought to go into this.” I and over a thousand others put plenty of thought into our objections. Maybe take the time to read some of them?

    In my opinion a 4-3 win is a travesty and I am livid!

  8. Marie Griffith December 18, 2009 at 8:50 pm #

    Annabel you were fantastic and clearly and concisely outlined the detrimental effects a church would have on local residents. I thoroughly enjoyed the evening and it was great to meet so many other like minded residents who feel so strongly about this issue.

    What a nailbiter the voting stage was though! I look forward to being involved in the next stage and sorry I couldn’t make it to Patricks as I was up at 5.30am for work.

    Let’s keep the momentum up. Is there any way we could up the ant! Marie

  9. Claire Gibb December 18, 2009 at 9:26 pm #

    Just to make the point that none of the councillors came down in favour of approval – those who voted against refusal actually went in favour of deferral. It seems from that, and from listening to the arguments put forward by the councillors in question, that a strong case for approval could not be made at this time.

  10. David December 19, 2009 at 1:36 am #

    Congratulations on the first victory, now maybe if the Ritzy cinema chain came forward and expressed a more in depth aspiration to turn the building into a cinema this would make some of the councillors feel that there is an alternative to the church application. At this meeting and at any appeal they will be considering a church application which will provide community facilities against an aspiration of the local people that the building should be a cinema. We need Ritzy to put there money where there mouth is and really come out and say THEY DO WANT TO TURN THAT BUILDING INTO A CINEMA FOR THE LOCAL COMMUNITY and let the councillors really know what the alternative to the church is. Some of these councillors will see the alternative to the church as a run down deteriorated building with no guarantee of it ever becoming a cinema. we need to up the game.

  11. miguel Vicencio-sosa December 20, 2009 at 10:35 am #

    Well Done everyone involved. As many have commented, it is just the first victory and the comments of Bromley councillors make me think that the appeal will be harder to win. We will continue to support the initiative of brave neighbours and friends in this campaign. If there is anything alse crystal palce residents can do then it should be done. Has there been any news from that cinema operator (cant remember the name) which had put an offer for the site and lost to the KICC?

  12. Ray Sacks December 21, 2009 at 12:01 am #

    I am shocked that KICC’s agent is reported to have said that “… if planning permission was not forthcoming the building would just be allowed to fall into disrepair.” Although not a great prospect, it is still better than allowing the planning application for a change of use to succeed. Further it seems to be a cynical way of trying to blackmail the local community. It is time for an application to get the building listed so that would not be allowed to happen.

    The applicants claimed that the proposed centre would help to meet the “health, educational, faith, social services and other essential needs of the community” I regard this as a disingenuous and possibly duplicitous claim based on no evidence whatsoever. Crystal Palace is a vibrant, mixed community whose needs as specified by the applicants are well served by local authority and existing voluntary sector services. The fact that the applicants have – on their own admission in their application form – made no attempt whatsoever to consult the local community before submitting this application speaks for itself.

  13. Jeremy December 22, 2009 at 5:22 pm #

    I’d like to echo what Ray has said above about KICC’s agent suggesting that the owners would simply allow the building to fall into disrepair if planning permission is denied – it doesn’t strike me as being a particulalry Christian attitude and really gives the lie to their stated desire to support and enhance the Crystal Palace triangle. Ray is right in his assertions and I for one think that KICC would have done very little to enhance our already vibrant and varied community – let’s hear it for all the fantastic folk in Crystal Palace who’ve demonstrated so well what community and democracy is all about!

  14. gazmaj January 9, 2010 at 5:15 pm #

    I agree with Jeremy it is not particularly generous to allow the building to degenerate. Quite malicious in fact. Having viewed the video of the interior one can see the potential of “…the power and the glory…” in a religious context if you will. A magnificent space; how wonderful it could be for a community that appears to be united in a wish for a boost for cultural and artisan businesses. Hopefully the Ritzy may have a second bite at the cherry ?!

  15. Lee Newham January 11, 2010 at 3:04 pm #

    Cllr Alexa Michael says that cinemas have to be multiplexes to survive these days. I disagree. They don’t HAVE to be. Lots of smaller cinemas do well. The Electric and the Gate in Notting Hill Gate, The Odeon in Beckenham, The Picture house in Greenwich, SCreen on Baker street, the screen on the hill in Belsize park, The Everyman etc.

    They just have to be busy.

    I also agree with the majority of the others who have posted here about the very unchristian threat (which is what it is): “if planning permission was not forthcoming the building would just be allowed to fall into disrepair.”

    If that is their attitude, then we definitely don’t want them here because they obviously don’t care about the area or the building.

  16. Anne Daines February 8, 2010 at 11:50 am #

    I am appalled by KICCs cynical attitude to leave the cinema site empty. How dare they decide what the community wants without canvassing the community. Will KICC guarantee that they will run and welcome gay, bi-sexual and transgender groups, film clubs, yoga classes, tai-chi classes, or any other community needs which a mapping exercise might highlight. Of course a community would welcome a church that really answers the needs of a community. You only have to look at Parchmore Methodist Church in Thornton Heath to see how effectively this can be done and to see Christian teaching in practice. But sadly KICCs narrow and extreme attitudes are well documented. And this is clearly being demonstrated by their current threatening behaviour.

    If the site has to remain empty then so be it. At least the community will not have to tolerate traffic jams and parking twice a day on Sunday!

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