by Ross Lidbetter [email protected]
A church says it is looking forward to converting a Gala Bingo Hall into a “thriving centre for the whole community”. Speaking for the first time, Kingsway International Christian Centre has confirmed it has purchased the freehold on the site in Church Road, Upper Norwood, on June 30. Many campaigners had been hoping to see a cinema built there, but their hopes now appear to be fading.
KICC has confirmed it will be holding church services for adults and children on Sunday mornings and evenings and a Tuesday evening service. It also plans to have weekday youth meetings and a children’s club, counselling services, a cafe and bookshop operating each day – all of which it says will be open to residents. And it has dismissed the rumour that thousands will be flocking to its services, saying it expects to have a congregation of about 500. Pastor Dipo Oluyomi, chief executive officer of KICC, said: “Having operated from rented accommodation for thirteen years (in Wimbledon) we are delighted to be moving into our own premises. “All our church members are really looking forward to working with the community to contribute to the regeneration of Church Road.” KICC says it has a “strong heritage” of operating first rate projects to benefit the whole community, including fundraising support for local charities and working with young people on programmes which will help improve their GCSE grades. And Pastor Oluyomi is pleading for the community to give them a chance. He added: “We definitely appreciate people’s opinions. “However, we feel they need to know us first for there to be any judgement as to who they think we are.” An online petition has been put together by campaigners calling for a cinema on the site and this has attracted nearly 700 supporters. A separate paper petition has around 750 signatures.