Opposition to Church Plans ‘not anti-religious’ – says veteran Upper Norwood Councillor Pat Ryan

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Plans to use 25 Church Road as a church are not being objected to on anti-religious grounds – and those that proclaim this to be the case are prepared to use ‘scare tactics’ and are exceptionally irresponsible.

That is the message from veteran Upper Norwood Cllr Pat Ryan (Lab) in response to comments on Twitter by Croydon council’s cabinet member for leisure and sport Cllr Timothy Godfrey.

Cllr Ryan’s comments follow a constituent’s response to Cllr Godfrey’s comments and which he was sent a copy of. The constituent said Cllr Godfrey’s comments “shows a worrying lack of knowledge of the history of this sorry saga or of the behaviour of the KICC.”

But Croydon Cllr Ryan says plans to use the building at 25 Church Road as a church are not being objected to on anti-religious grounds – “and those that proclaim this to be the case are prepared to use ‘scare tactics’ and are exceptionally irresponsible.

“There are a host of churches in Upper Norwood, of all deferent religious persuasions, and there has never been any conflict between them and the local communities, indeed they are all very supportive of each other.”

Cllr Godfrey’s original Tweet just says: “Very impressed with the work this church has done to refurbish this old Cinema / Bingo Hall. Open for bookings”

He has responded to a variety of comments by Tweeting: “The building was available for sale and no cinema came close to buying it.” (Editor’s note: The building was sold by Gala bingo in a secret deal and KICC outbid a cinema chain for it.) “A cinema could operate most days.” “Realistically a cinema operator would have knocked the building down to put in the six screens;

“Why doesn’t the cinema campaign rent the 1,100 seat auditorium for cinema starting once a week?” and “They probably don’t need change of use if the church is ancillary to its main use.”

Replies from cinema campaigners and supporters have included: “This church does not have planning permission for change of use. In 2009 3,500 local residents, 120 local business and 7,000 peitioners, 3 local MPs etc. etc. opposed change of use” and:

“Have a chat with your South and Upper Norwood ward councillors. 25 Church Road the only D2 building in Crystal Palace.”

An email to News From Crystal Palace from Cllr Godfrey – sent before amazing revelations covering the open day held by the church – can be found at the end of this article.


THE CONSTITUENT’S EMAIL / CLLR RYAN’S EMAIL TO THE CONSTITUENT / CLLR GODFREY’S EMAIL TO NEWS FROM CRYSTAL PALACE

THE CONSTITUENT’S EMAIL

Dear Timothy,

I’m very surprised that you have suggested on Twitter that the KICC’s proposal to establish a ‘Community Hub’ at 25 Church Rd is anything more than an attempt to assist their latest ‘change of use’ planning application to Bromley Council. The KICC proposals bring nothing new to the area, which already has a number of community centres and directly clashes with the Upper Norwood Library Trusts plans to make the Library a hub for educational and community activities.

The KICC have made similar suggestions before but failed to deliver anything of benefit to the community;

  • They have kept the building largely unused for their four years of ownership, save for the occasional non permitted event.
  • They acquired the building in contravention of Charity Commission guidelines (they are still under supervision of a Charity Commission manager after a second investigation for ‘financial mismanagement’).
  • They have also previously issued threats that they would leave the building to rot if they did not get permission to change its use to a place of worship.
  • They have offered to host film events before but made it clear that it would only be for ‘family films’ chosen by them.

To suggest that their current proposals are anything more than another attempt by them to secure  a change of use to that of a place of worship shows a worrying lack of knowledge of the history of this sorry saga or of the behaviour of the KICC, who have treated the community of Upper Norwood with contempt since they purchased the building.

The arrival of a Labour administration in Croydon was greeted with  much relief and enthusiasm in Upper Norwood but I have to say that your Tweets last night have gone down very badly.

Best wishes


CLLR RYAN’S EMAIL TO THE CONSTITUENT

Thank you for your e-mail and your response to Cllr Timothy Godfrey, who has not had any previous discussions with any of the Upper Norwood Councillors regarding 25 Church Road.

I have recently e-mailed Mike Kiely the director of planning at the LB Croydon strongly suggesting that as a neighbouring borough of the LB Bromley where 25 Church Road is located. that he strongly objects to the KICC present proposals.

I explained that if they the KICC were granted planning permission as suggested, it would destroy this vibrant district centre here at Crystal Palace. It would created a huge parking and traffic problem, which would prevent people from visiting the ‘Triangle’, this would with a doubt result in most of the small businesses going out of business.

I have been informed by Mike Kiely that Nicola Townsend will be making representation on behalf of the LB Croydon.

It is important that Cllr Timothy Godfrey do some research, regarding the long standing campaign which has been going on for a 4/5 years, and had the support of the late MP Malcolm Wicks who spoke so eloquently at a packed public meeting at the Queens hotel a few years ago.

This building was sold very quickly, without giving the opportunity to those people who were prepared to purchase this building, so as it could be used as a Cinema, this is the overwhelmingly view of the local communities, in and around the Crystal Palace, it would indeed be very popular, just as the Cinema in Brixton is.

This 25 Church Road is not being objected to on anti religious grounds, and those that proclaim this to be the case, are prepared to use ‘scare tactics.’ and are exceptionally irresponsible.

There are a host of churches in Upper Norwood, of all deferent religious persuasions, and there has never been any conflict between them and the local communities, indeed they are all very supportive of each other. It is just that 25 Church Road because of its location is most unsuitable in every way which I have explained, no other reasons.


CLLR GODFREY’S EMAIL TO NEWS FROM CRYSTAL PALACE

First of all I think that ‘The Open Door’ should be congratulated on an impressive refurbishment of this lovely old building. Credit where credit is due.

Secondly I think that credit should be given to the Cinema Campaign for making the case for a cinema in Upper Norwood / Crystal Palace. I fully support the aim of the Cinema Campaign to bring a cinema to Upper Norwood. It strikes me as a more suitable location than the new complex that is due to open in West Norwood.

Then I think it is a mistake of the Cinema Campaign to divert all their efforts into opposing the use of this former Cinema / Bingo Hall by ‘The Open door’.

I think it would be more productive to work co-operatively with ‘The Open Door’ to bring life and vitality to this lovely old building. The church will use the building almost entirely on a Sunday and therefore it gives this significant complex the ability to be a useful part of the wider community Monday to Saturday. It could be used as a conference venue, as a large screen cinema or simply as a base for community meetings etc.

I doubt that it is commercially viable to run a 1,100 seat cinema in Upper Norwood. Modern Cinemas tend now to be in complexes and in far smaller auditoriums.

I would hate to see 25 Church Road demolished to make way for a redevelopment into a modern cinema complex. This building is part of our History.

I think it is an opportunity for people to step back for a moment from entrenched positions and look constructively at what can be achieved at this site.

I would hope that the Cinema Campaign continues to work to bring a viable cinema offering to Upper Norwood / Crystal Palace.

Best wishes

Timothy


This article was first published on 7 October 2014 in  News from Crystal Palace. Reproduced with permission from and copyright Jerry Green – Author

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