Streatham Guardian – 3rd July, 2009.

Read the original in the Streatham Guardian.

An evangelical church that is moving to Crystal Palace has moved to try and dispel residents’ concerns about its impact on the area. Many residents were concerned on learning the Gala Bingo site in Church Road – what many consider as the key building to regenerate the economic prospects of the area – had been bought by the Kingsway International Christian Centre (KICC), and not a cinema chain who also made a bid. Less parking for shoppers, and the loss of a community space for use by people that will largely come from outside the area, meant widespread objections by many residents who feel there is no need for another church in the area. Many also feared KICC, which has 12,000 members – the fastest growing congregation in Europe – had bought up other properties in the area, including the former Mercedes Showroom next door, and had plans to make Crystal Palace a home for a super-church, or a potential headquarters. KICC – which made more than £19m in 2008, mainly from donations from its members – is currently trying to relocate from its home on the Olympic site in Walthamstow, to Havering where it had plans for a 8000 seat super-church turned down by Havering Council last year. But a spokesperson said the building would be the only one it was buying in the area, and would simply be used as a permanent home for its 500 member south London branch – one of 22 smaller churches operating within the M25 – that currently rents a space in Wimbledon. He also promised the church would offer facilities to benefit the wider community and wanted to contribute to the regeneration of the area. He said: “We do impact on communities. Last year we raised £20,000 for the Mayor of Waltham Forest’s nominated charities, and our supplementary school programme continues to be a success, helping students improve their GCSE grades.” The spokesman said the church would hold services for children and adults on Sunday mornings and evenings, and Tuesday evenings. Weekday youth meetings, a children’s club, counselling services, and a cafe and bookshop, would all be open to local people, he added, and further ideas on initiatives to involve the local community would be discussed once the church opened. He said shoppers should not be concerned by parking being taken by the congregation, because many would come by public transport or use the car parks around Crystal Palace Park. KICC will submit its planning application to Bromley Council imminently.