Controversy over revived Upper Norwood bingo hall plans

Resurrected church plan falling on stony ground

OPPOSITION is mounting following news that the Kingsway International Christian Centre (KICC) is reviving plans to use the former Gala bingo hall in Upper Norwood as a church.

Previous plans to use the building, owned by KICC, as a church were rejected by Bromley Council in 2009.

Now the Open Door, as KICC is calling the operation, has launched a public consultation exercise prior to submitting a new application seeking permission for dual entertainment and worship use of the building in Church Road.

Already businesses, local councillors and campaigners who want the building turned back into a cinema, are warning that church use would create parking and traffic problems in the district centre, causing more congestion and driving shoppers away.

Baptismal pool built into the stage

Baptismal pool built into the stage

There is also concern the Open Door has seemingly pre-empted any planning decision by building a baptismal pool in the premises.

But in its pre-application publicity material the Open Door says it has invested £2 million in refurbishing the building and wants it to become an asset in the community.

Dr Dipo Oluyomi, pastor at the Open Door, said: “Following our restoration of this historic building we are delighted to now offer its use back to the Crystal Palace community. Alongside our church services we plan to hold many events and host community groups so that 25 Church Road will once again become the vibrant hub of the Triangle.”

The Open Door says church services would only make up 30 per cent of the building’s use, the remaining 70 per cent of the timetable would be available for local community and private hire use.

Community uses being suggested to local residents include education courses, fitness clubs, coffee mornings, a cinema club, corporate events and concerts.

A spokeswoman for the church’s PR company said a baptismal pool had been built but this was something, as owners, it was entirely free to do, provided the building was not used for worship before any planning permission was granted.

In an open letter to Pastor Oluyomi, Crystal Palace Chamber of Commerce says its concerns about the development focus on parking.

KICC member from East Kent coast parked in the traders' loading bay along Church Road as directed by one of KICC's parking attendants

KICC member from East Kent coast parked in the traders’ loading bay along Church Road as directed by one of KICC’s parking attendants

It says: “Many traders tell us that as much as 80 per cent of their trade is at weekends. Lack of parking here is a serious issue. Any further reduction of parking availability would be detrimental to local business activity.”

The Open Door is claiming it has carried out a transport assessment which shows its members would arrived by “sustainable transport” or shared cars.

Upper Norwood councillor Pat Ryan said he and his two ward colleagues would be lodging objections to the plans and he would be urging Croydon Council to also object formally.

Cllr Ryan said: “Trying to combine a church with community use just won’t work. Crystal Palace is already at saturation point with traffic and it can’t cope with any more.

“The community wants an independent cinema in the building and would like to see KICC find a new home. These plans will be detrimental to what is a vibrant district centre.”

Annabel Sidney of the Crystal Palace Picture Campaign said feedback she had received showed people were worried that the intention, if permission is granted would be to concentrate on the church use rather than involve the community.

First published in the Croydon Advertiser on 11 October 2014

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Photos added by and copyright © Picture Palace Campaign

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