9 September, 2009.

NEARLY 4,500 people want an old bingo hall turned into an independent cinema instead of a church.

The former Gala Bingo in Church Road, Crystal Palace, was bought by the Kingsway International Christian Centre (KICC) in June but residents are lobbying Bromley council not to grant permission for a change of its use.

KICC wants to convert it from community use to a place of worship but locals have formed a ‘Cinema for Crystal Palace’ group on networking site Facebook and as the Times went to press, it had a membership of 4,708 people.

Darren Ingram, 29, of Gypsy Hill, who set up the group, said: “Bromley council needs to consider the loss of a really good amenity for people who live in the area.

“There is no real alternative venue for a cinema. It’s really sad that the bingo hall closed but now Crystal Palace needs something to replace it.”

When the building first came up for sale around 18 months ago, residents contacted City Screen, which runs independent art-house cinemas and asked it to consider turning it into a picture house.

KICC outbid City Screen and last week submitted a planning application to Bromley council to change its use.

However, due to an error, the application was returned and is yet to be put back in.

Describing the benefits of having a cinema instead of a church, Mr Ingram said: “It would help with regeneration and would be something for people of all ages.

“There isn’t a lot in terms of entertainment at the moment within the Crystal Palace triangle – it’s all restaurants and bars. A cinema would bring footfall the area.

“I hope the council considers the loss of the community venue. There is already a large number of churches in the area and there is limited parking.

“Gay and lesbian groups in the area are concerned about the church as they are known to be against homosexuality which wouldn’t work in bringing the whole community together.”

KICC has said it would screen films for residents but Mr Ingram is not convinced that would satisfy the community.

He said: “The films would probably be censored. It’s not really the same as having a cinema which shows current films.

“I doubt they would be able to get a licence for much.”

Nobody from KICC was available for comment at the time of going to press.

Anyone who wants to make their views known to the council can email planning@bromley.gov.uk and request an application consultation letter to be sent to them.


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