22nd October, 2009

By Craig Burnett »

Lambeth Council has finally agreed to back residents calling for a cinema in Crystal Palace.

The council initially said it would not object to plans for an evangelical church on the former site of the Gala Bingo in Church Road.

But after a packed public meeting this weekend where residents called for a cinema in the area instead, the council agreed to make a formal objection to the proposal.

Bromley Council’s planning department is set to examine the bid next month.

At Sunday’s meeting, organised by the Picture Palace Campaign, about 800 people gathered to oppose a change of use for the site which the Kingsway International Evangelical Centre wants to turn into a place of worship.

Its planning application for the change of use will be considered by Bromley Council at the end of November, but as a neighbouring borough Lambeth can register its residents opinions on the scheme.

On October 12 Lambeth contacted Bromley to say it would not be making a formal objection to the scheme – but a week later the council announced a u-turn.

Annabel Sidney, a spokeswoman for the Picture Palace campaign, said the meeting at the Queens Hotel was an “overwhelming success” that showed how passionately local people backed the cinema plan.

She said residents were “absolutely furious” when they heard Lambeth Council would not be formally objecting to the change of use.

Organiser Sue Nagle said: “So many turned up that they were not all accommodated which was a shame but those who did make it in had an afternoon that they won’t forget for some time.

“I certainly won’t forget the day that a whole community came together in a dignified and mature fashion to state their passionate desire to have a cinema in the town.”

Guests at the meeting included the leaders of Croydon and Bromley councils, politicians and representatives from the cinema industry.

Ms Nagle said: “Clare Binns from City Screens (owners of the Picturehouse cinema chain and Brixton’s Ritzy cinema) was visibly moved by this outpouring of support for her company coming here and she received rapturous applause when she assured those present that she shared their wish to see her company put a cinema in Crystal Palace.”

Croydon Council’s planning committee is set to consider its “adjoining borough” response to the bid in a meeting at 6.30pm tonight.

Councillor Lib Peck, Lambeth Council’s cabinet member for regeneration, said: “Our initial response to Bromley raised no formal objections to this planning application but did raise a number of grave concerns that we have already advised Bromley of – including the suggestion that the capacity of the venue and number of services should be strictly controlled.

“Further to this, having taken into account the strongly articulated concerns of local residents, we have subsequently decided to submit a further written response to Bromley expressing a formal objection to the proposals.”