THREE YEARS ON! THANK YOU FOR YOUR CONTINUED SUPPORT!
It’s nearly three years since KICC purchased 25 Church Road as a D1 ‘Place of Worship’ for its Wimbledon congregation, narrowly outbidding independent cinema operator City Screen that runs Picturehouse Cinemas.
In December 2009, Bromley Council recognised the overwhelming strength of community feeling that retaining 25 Church Road’s D2 “Entertainment” planning status was vital to maintaining and enhancing the vitality of the Upper Norwood Triangle. In particular Bromley refused the application by KICC for a change of use for 25 Church Road from D2 Public Entertainment to D1 Religious Worship because it would involve:
“the loss of an important entertainment and leisure use … which would result in a reduction in the range of facilities 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”.
The importance of maintaining the historic character of our town centre, whilst enhancing economic and cultural vitality, is also echoed by the planning policies of Croydon and Lambeth councils and the conservation area status they have designated to the rest of the Triangle.
FAILURE TO CONSULT
Like many thousands of you, the Picture Palace Campaign hoped that the contribution of 25 Church Road to both the local architectural heritage and the cultural and economic vitality of the Triangle would continue under the ownership of City Screen.
Whilst that hope received a blow when City Screen was outbid for 25 Church Road by KICC, (if City Screen had been successful we would have had a cinema up and running by now), we later came to believe that KICC itself had also come to recognise the critical importance of 25 Church Road to regeneration when it confirmed in June 2010 that it would not be lodging an appeal against Bromley’s decision to refuse change of use. We were encouraged in that belief by KICC’s indication in public statements and press coverage that it “did not wish to be seen as “fighting” the very community that it wishes to serve”, that it always intended for the building to have a large element of community use and that it was considering a variety of future building use options which would “most benefit the whole community.”
Critically, KICC also indicated that it would be releasing a fuller statement of its plans for the building and that it would consult with the community over those plans in order to identify uses in line with its current entertainment use as stipulated by D2. This might include a cinema showing family films as well as amateur dramatics and concerts, including Christian music.
We hoped that this marked the beginning of a dialogue, something which the leader of Bromley Council, Stephen Carr, had also encouraged KICC to enter into.
To our immense disappointment, after another 24 months, the indication that KICC intended to consult with the community and explore which D2 uses would “most benefit the whole community” appeared to be nothing more than an empty gesture.
The suggested consultation has never materialised and KICC appears totally unwilling to discuss its plans to use the building for D2 entertainment purposes or to clarify its intentions by putting them up to any form of public scrutiny.
In 2010 and 2011, KICC failed to take up invitations by our three local MPs to meet with them and discuss the very real concerns of their constituents and in our view has wholly failed to act upon the guidance of their regulator, the Charity Commission, which expressly recommends to charities that
“Some charity projects involving the acquisition of land arouse opposition locally, even to the extent of active hostility. Where this is likely, trustees are advised to plan carefully in advance, to consult widely and to provide full information about their proposals and the reasons for them”.
More worryingly, despite the failure to secure a change of use to religious worship, it was reported in March 2011 that KICC had indicated to our then Town Centre Manager that, amongst other uses, it was still considering hosting religious services in the building. Whilst this was later strenuously denied by KICC, it is notable that KICC has now held two religious concerts in Crystal Palace Park and have also revealed that it intends to rename 25 Church Road as “The Open Door”, a name linked to KICC by a new charity, incorporated in March 2011, called The KICC Open Door, whose express purpose is the advancement of the Christian religion and the furtherance of the charitable works.
In March 2011, KICC also told Bromley Council that “they were intending to use the hall for concerts, drama, exhibitions and conferences, and that the building will also provide a single screen cinema, bookshop and coffee shop”.
Bromley Council advised KICC that its revised plans for the building “would not appear to fall within the Use Class D2 and would appear to require planning permission”.
FURTHER PLANNING APPLICATIONS REFUSED
In November 2011, hundreds of local residents and traders objected again to KICC’s latest planning applications to undertake external alterations to the building.
The proposed external works included:
These were refused. Comments by Bromley Council’s planning officer in the planning report rejecting the applications stated that:
“There have been a large number of objections to the three applications and many of these are concerned with the potential use of the building and its implications. The building has been refurbished internally and KICC advised at a meeting with a council officer in March 2011 that it will accommodate various uses including drama, conferences, music associated with the Christian community, income generating activities of a ‘business centre’ nature and community uses. The applicant has since confirmed in writing that the use of the building will fall under Use class D2 (bingo hall/cinema etc). There remains concern that the use of the building may not fall under Class D2 and to date neither a Certificate of Lawfulness application nor planning application have not been received regarding the future use.”
Since being refused “change of use” in 2009 and “permission” to undertake external works in November 2011, KICC has pressed on regardless and undertaken extensive external and internal renovation works to the building – but for what purpose?
Many local residents and traders have raised their concerns with the campaign.
MAY 2012 – PPC WRITES TO OUR MPS
In May 2012, the Picture Palace Campaign has written again to our three local MPs asking them to raise this issue directly with KICC’s trustees. We have also asked Bromley council to undertake an inspection of the building to ascertain how KICC intends to use it.
We will post a further update when we have more news. If you would like to get involved in the campaign or find out more, you can find us at the Crystal Palace Overground Festival. Please do come along and say hello.
Thank you again for your support!