News Shopper – 29th June, 2009

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CRYSTAL PALACE: Campaigners want a cinema

CAMPAIGNERS are hoping a beloved bingo hall will be converted into a cinema, not a church. More than 100 people have already staged two protests outside Gala Bingo in Crystal Palace to show their support for a silver screen. They had pinned their hopes on the bingo hall -and former cinema – in Church Road as a venue after interest in the building was expressed by a major independent cinema chain. But it has instead been sold to evangelical church Kingsway International Christian Centre. Campaigners and local traders say the site is of “vital importance” to the economic regeneration of the area. Andy Stern, who owns vintage shop Bambinos in Church Road, said: “It is the key building in the triangle that can be the springboard to unlock the potential of Crystal Palace.” Cinema campaigner and vice chair of the Crystal Palace Chamber of Commerce, Sue Nagle, said: “We are not anti-church in any way. “This campaign is about keeping a building in community use.” While a cinema would be widely used by local residents, she added, a church would instead draw the majority of its visitors from outside Crystal Palace, who would take away parking spaces frown shoppers. Ms Nagle also questioned demand for another church, when five churches in a half mile radius around the triangle were “half empty”. The Kingsway International Christian Centre was contacted to comment on residents’ concerns, but said it would not comment before the sale had been officially completed on June 30. Campaigners intend to challenge any planning applications made by the church to convert its multiple community leisure use to single purpose usage. A spokeswoman from the Gala Coral group said the 11 staff affected by the closure were told as soon as possible by management. She said the company was looking for alternative roles for the staff in the company.