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.