Team CP – time to dig deep! Make the Campaign count this Saturday
25 Church Road – latest news
It has to be said: things are not looking great for those of us wanting a cinema at 25 Church Road.
Kingsway International Christian Centre (KICC) will shortly be holding two events at 25, Church Road to announce its presence and start operating in Crystal Palace:
- Saturday 11 August – an ‘Open Day at the Open Door’, 10am-6pm
- Saturday 25 August – an opening ceremony (‘dedication service’), together with a seminar and exhibition called ‘Connecting businesses in the UK and Africa’.
It is unclear how KICC intends to use 25 Church Road subsequently. It does not have planning permission for a church.
…BUT NOT OUT!
The Picture Palace Campaign (PPC) remains determined to bring a cinema to Crystal Palace, ideally at 25 Church Road. And a leading cinema operator still wants to come to Crystal Palace, and would still be willing to buy 25 Church Road. This strengthens our case for retaining 25 Church Rd as a place of public entertainment (D2 Assembly and Leisure Use, in planning terms).
What happened when we and our MPs met KICC’s Trustees
The PPC has had several meetings with local MPs Jim Dowd, Tessa Jowell and Malcolm Wicks. We and they have spent a couple of years trying to get round a table with KICC’s trustees and senior management team. They finally accepted and a meeting took place on 11 July. Here’s a summary of what they told us, and our view of it.
- KICC gave an express undertaking that there would be no religious activities at 25 Church Road under its current planning use.
We say: Nothing has really changed since KICC submitted its original planning application for change of use in August 2009. Far from responding to the community’s expressed desire for an entertainment venue which is open to all and maximises regeneration opportunities, it seems to us that KICC’s long-term objective is to replicate the religious worship and instruction activities conducted at its Walthamstow church and other venues across London.
- KICC said it had produced a business plan and intended to hire out the building for conferences and ‘community’ space.
We say: The hireable community space would not provide anything in addition to the facilities already available in the area. In any case, conferences do not fall within the D2 use class.
- KICC stressed that many of its proposed activities – including a Saturday Cinema Club, zumba and keep-fit classes, business seminars, counselling, and work with schools – would fall into the D2 category. It has already installed a single-screen cinema for showing family-friendly films on a conditional basis (that is subject to KICC’s approval).
We say: The ‘family cinema’ is a poor substitute for a professionally run and programmed cinema. And while KICC assures us that its other proposed activities are legitimately ‘D2’ in nature, they are unable to give us any information about them.
- KICC said it was mindful of the impact of a large group of people coming into Crystal Palace and would be sensitive to our needs and concerns.
We say: Why then is KICC holding a ‘Dedication Service’ and ‘Business Seminar and Exhibition’ (both D1 uses) ‘where over 1,200 attendees are expected to attend’, when its own planning consultant said a more intensive use had “‘the potential to cause significant noise/disturbance and parking problems in the local area” which would be detrimental to the economic viability and vitality of the town centre.
- KICC gave a sincere apology for any past failings in their approach to public consultation, saying they wanted to “move forward and correct wrongs, and to positively engage with the Crystal Palace community”. It offered to hold an Open Day to set out its intentions more clearly and transparently.
We say: It is unfortunate that, after three years of no engagement with the wider community about 25 Church Road, KICC has chosen the final Saturday of the Olympics to hold this event.
We know very well the strength of local feeling in favour of a cinema, the positive effect that this would have on jobs and opportunities in the area, and the strong desire to preserve the existing D2 use.
It was very telling that KICC confirmed its ultimate aim is still to secure 25 Church Road as a ‘Place of Worship’ for its Wimbledon congregation, as well as members from across South London, Kent and Surrey. This is why it originally bought the building, and why the change of use was refused by Bromley planning committee in 2009 on the grounds that:
“The loss of an important entertainment/leisure use within Use Class D2 and the introduction of a mixed use including a place of worship within Use Class D1, would result in a reduction in the range of facilities provided within the town centre, detrimental to the proper functioning of the daytime and evening economy and harmful to the social, cultural and economic characteristics of the area”.
What we did
Following the meeting with KICC, our legal and planning specialists helped us make a detailed case for D2 enforcement. On 30July, we sent a nine-page letter to Bromley Council, copied to local ward councillors, expressing our concerns regarding the inappropriate use of the building and the potential loss of our only significant D2 leisure venue.
Bromley is considering the issue from all sides. It wants to see its D2 ruling enforced, but it is also obliged to consider KICC’s ‘community’ proposals based on evidence rather than concerns.
That means allowing KICC to go ahead on the basis it has proposed. If it then turns out to be operating unlawfully, that is within a religious context or outside the D2 use class, we have a substantial basis on which to object. The MPs have asked us to keep them closely informed.
What can we do?
Our focus remains on a ‘Cinema for Crystal Palace’. It is not for us to comment on KICC as an organisation.
So the next stage of the campaign is to monitor very closely how 25 Church Road is going to be used. That’s why we’ll be attending KICC’s Open Day this Saturday, 11 August. We hope you’ll take this opportunity too, and give us your feedback.
We would also encourage you to make your ward councillors and MPs aware of your views. Thank you for your continuing support.