Croydon Guardian – 8th December, 2009.

croydon_guardian

Crystal Palace cinema campaigners prepare for battle at planning meeting

After months of lobbying and campaigning, thousands of Crystal Palace residents hoping a vacant bingo hall will become a cinema and not a church will learn the building’s fate next Thursday.

The campaigners outside the bingo site in Crystal Palace The campaigners outside the bingo site in Crystal Palace

Hundreds of campaigners will be ferried to Bromley’s civic centre in special coaches from the Crystal Palace Triangle, such is the interest in the crucial planning meeting on December 17.

The meeting will decide whether the Kingsway International Christian Centre (KICC) – which purchased the former Gala bingo hall in Church Road in May – should be granted permission to change the current community usage of the site for use as a place of worship.

It follows months of campaigning against the plans by thousands of residents who were devastated the church outbid independent cinema chain City Screen, owners of the Ritzy and Clapham Picture House, to purchase the building.

Their high profile campaign has seen celebrity backing by Hollywood director Spike Jonze, pop princess Pixie Lott, and Mercury Award winner Speech Debelle. Some 6,000 people joined the cause via Facebook and 18,000 objections were sent to Bromley Council from local residents and traders.

A public meeting attracted about 1,000 people to the Queens Hotel.

Campaign leaders, the Picture Palace campaign, have this week launched another attack on the church’s traffic assessment – which they believe is a key area which could see the church’s application turned down.

Spokeswoman Annabel Sidney said the church has failed to account for a lack of parking space in the vicinity for its congregation, who come from all over south London. She also cited a lack of consultation with residents over the plans.

She said the church being allowed to go ahead could “kill parking for residents and visitors to the district centre” and dramatically affect trade of local businesses. Campaigners hope if the church’s application is turned down, the site could be sold to a independent cinema chain.

KICC – that has declined to comment on its application before it goes in front of the council committee – could also appeal a negative decision.

The meeting is at 7pm at Bromley civic centre. To purchase a coach ticket visit the Bookseller Crow on the Hill in Westow Street or Bambinos in Church Road.