Your comments on Kingsway International Christian Centre’s survey and proposals for change of use of 25 Church Road

A big ‘THANK YOU’ to everyone who took the time to contact the campaign, political representatives and Bromley planning with your comments on FORTY SHILLINGS, Kingsway International Christian Centre’s PR company’s survey and proposals for ‘change of use’ of 25 Church Road, the last remaining dedicated D2 ‘Assembly and leisure’ venue and only registered ‘Asset of Community Value’  in Crystal Palace.

The response has been overwhelming.

As indicated in our last newsletter, we are publishing, on an anonymous basis, a representative sample of the comments we received. We have received many many similar responses on the points you have raised. We, and other local community groups and organisations, share your concerns.

Thank you for your continued support.

Your comments

“I am a resident of the Crystal Palace Ward and follow developments with 25 Church Road……………….I honestly consider myself to be fairly apathetic, I manage to turn up to the polls but that’s about it. I have never felt compelled to write personally to any local authority about anything ever before. But this is different.” Bromley Resident, Crystal Palace ward

“I have just completed the online survey for these proposals. I am a local resident; we have lived in ‘the area’ for 38 years and brought up our family here, now our grandchildren are frequent visitors. As such we have seen a great deal of change and the area continues to evolve but it is a distinctive, thriving community with many local businesses, events, festivals etc. It is also by and large a mixed but well integrated community. I am concerned at the impact these proposals to widen the use for this property will have on this community. Others will have commented in more detail but to summarise my concerns are as follows:-

1)     The apparently closed nature of KICC as an organisation. “Open door” is a complete misnomer; though I pass the site often I don’t believe I have ever seen the door open and that seems to be symptomatic of their attitude to the local community (which is of course a). They have shown very little interest in local views all along and this survey illustrates the point; it is very brief, uninformative, couched in vague terms and appears to be an attempt to tick the box marked “public consultation”. What we have seen of this organisation makes me very doubtful that it would ever really manage or offer the building as a facility for the whole community. There are other local venues such as the Phoenix Centre and the Sports Centre.

2)     Parking: the street parking in the area is already under pressure; we often find it difficult to park near our house and if one is ferrying small children and/or shopping this can be a real problem. It’s much worse around Church Road and the thought of 1100 people or more with cars to park is horrendous. I understand it’s been suggested that they could use the parking in Crystal Palace Park; that seems to me a bit of a cheek and anyway the parking there is heavily used in the week (by commuters I assume) and at the weekend for events and visitors to the park and sports centre.

3)     Looking at the website, it still appears basically to be a cinema/concert hall and I am not convinced it would work for the other uses being suggested. For training or conferences (which I have some experience of organising) one needs breakout rooms and proper catering facilities. You could hold a wedding ceremony there but where would the guests eat? And – returning to my first point – this is happily a very mixed community; would KICC welcome all kinds of marriage ceremonies and civil partnerships?” Bromley resident, Crystal Palace ward

 “Firstly I would like to highlight that the construction of this feedback form is entirely unfit for purpose – it is skewed to give a positive response. For example, where is the ‘none of the above’ option? Nevertheless, returning to the matter at hand, we want this precious building at 25 Church Road to be regenerated in a manner that will benefit our community, both its residents and local businesses. As a local shop owner, I can see no benefit to the town in your proposed church, sorry ‘community hub’. Your congregation are not based locally and do not spend any money in our local businesses – I imagine the first local residents will know about one of your events is when they cannot find a parking space in the already congested Triangle. Alternatively they may spot your minibuses arriving and leaving immediately after service has finished – what possible benefit does this offer to our town? We already have plentiful places of worship to service local demand – many of which are located in prime spots around the Triangle.

Do not continue to underestimate the local community (as you did with your ‘feedback form’), we are not daft – it is clear that any talk of a ‘multi-use community hub’ will disappear fairly quickly if your planning application is granted. Regardless, this is a community which is already well endowed with community venues – we have the Phoenix Centre, the Salvation Army halls, even the Crystal Palace Food Market has become a bustling community meeting point, not to mention the numerous church halls which are available to hire and already host many events/groups/clubs in the local area. Please identify the local groups that will be enquiring about the hire of a 1000+ super slick venue with baptism pool – there is simply no demand for hiring this type of venue in Crystal Palace and I’m sure you know that as well as us.

I have lived in Crystal Palace all of my life and I care deeply for this town – I was sad when the Bingo hall took over 25 Church Road, but to a certain extent it was a sign of a difficult era. The concern and sadness I feel now that KICC have moved in is much greater. I have seen this town pass through troubled and much less affluent times – when the Triangle was scruffy and neglected as a result of it’s position on the boundary of 5 London boroughs. Crime was high and Crystal Palace was not the type of place anybody wanted to come for a day out – but that has now changed. In the past our old cinema was not viable, but now it is and it could provide the commercial and social anchor that our town needs to ensure that it continues to improve and prosper.

I love the diversity of Crystal Palace – it is a unique place where so many different communities meet. However, it does not need another church, nor another community venue, which owing to its size and local opposition will likely sit empty most of the time. What it needs is a cinema – and there are businesses prepared to make that happen – this building is a community asset which has been in hibernation for so long due to economic circumstances, now is it’s time to shine again – your proposal will only ensure that it remains closed in the eyes of the local community, will do nothing to boost the local economy or regenerate a tired looking Church Road (you barely manage to keep the outside of the building neat and tidy and that is while you are trying to impress…). This response is not driven by anti-religious feeling – I truly hope you find the right place for your organisation, but 25 Church Road is not it. As a community we are imploring you to find a different location more appropriate to both your and our needs.” Bromley resident and local trader, Crystal Palace ward

 “I agree that there is a place for a multi-use leisure and entertainment venue in Crystal Palace that can accommodate middle-scale events.  There is nothing of this type/scale available in the area and the Film Festival and Overground Festival show there is an appetite for it from the local community.  This is in line with the building’s current planning use.  There is no local requirement for the planning permission to be changed to allow religious activities as one of these uses, however, since there is an abundance of buildings already in the immediate local area with existing planning permission for this.  There are no legal safeguards that can ensure that community use would be protected if the planning use were changed; indeed, the Church’s trustees have a duty to further its religious and charitable mission so I would expect them to uphold this legally by maximising the religious use of the venue – which would naturally mean that community use would fall away.

The logical way to retain this building as part of a mixed town centre for Crystal Palace, that contributes to a vibrant community life, is to retain its existing planning use and this is what I want as a local resident. “ …………………………………

“As I understand it, the cinema club will screen no films certificated above a U or that do not align with the religious viewpoint of the current owners, so its offer would not serve me as an adult cinema goer.

All other things being equal I might attend non religious film screenings for kids on Saturday/Sunday daytimes, but I imagine this is when KICC will want to use the building for services, and we’re not at home on weekdays as I work full time.  There’s already a family cinema club at another Church Hall on the Triangle which I’ve never been to, so I don’t think I’d use this one.”   Bromley resident, Crystal Palace ward

“I have concerns about the parking issues which I suspect will occur as a result of this change of use. Crystal Palace is a nightmare for cars and parking as it is, without this adding to the problem. A cinema would be more valuable to the area as a whole – more inclusive and accessible to local people. I do not support the change of use proposal.” Bromley resident, Crystal Palace ward

“The venue is too big to be a local conference hall, and we are already very well off in the local area for sports, fitness, yoga etc, with several venues in the triangle itself, not to mention the National Sports Centre.

The triangle is already well off for the most wonderful independent cafes, bars and restaurants, internet cafes.

The building was designed as an entertainment venue, specifically cinema for the local community and should remain so. A cinema would help bring more footfall to the area, encouraging financial growth, assisting other local businesses to increase turnover.

What KICC propose is a church behind a smoke screen of mixed uses, which will in my view benefit the local community in no way whatsoever, with expensive rental charges for rooms, and the proposed films to be shown will be purely of a U certificate, which in itself will exclude much of the community, which is tantamount to censorship, and has no place in our community.

This survey unfortunately fails to offer suitable answer options to some questions, so I was unable to answer all the points as I would have liked.” Bromley resident, Crystal Palace ward

“As much as I appreciate you trying to open up the venue to other uses other than worship, I’m afraid I would prefer the building to revert to its original purpose as a dedicated cinema, which the area could most certainly do with. Please consider relinquishing your lease and allowing the community project, the Picture Palace campaign, to renovate the premises as a proper community asset and preserve the rich heritage of the building as a working cinema. Thank you.” Southwark resident, College ward

“I very much disagree with the proposed change from a D2 to D1 venue. It appears that the ‘community hub’ uses which KICC proposes merely replicate other facilities available in Crystal Palace, and large question marks remain over the practical implications of any community use needing to align with KICCs ethos.  Furthermore, as the only D2 venue in the area, it would be a huge shame if any change of use application was allowed.”  Croydon resident, Upper Norwood ward

“I do not think that the facility as it currently stands is useful to the local community and believe that the regeneration work you have completed is based on the presumption that it will become a church that few, if any, local residents will attend. Those local residents who are interested in attending mass or church are already well-provided for in the tolerant, multi-faith and multi-racial community I live in. Any intended use for the local community is an afterthought designed to advance your ‘change of use’ proposals even though they were denied a few years ago. With respect, I believe it would be best for you to withdraw your application and allow the site to be purchased at market rate by another party with a genuine interest in providing a service more palatable to the local traders and community.’

The KICC claims to have delivered 17,000 leaflets in the local area yet despite living about 5 minutes walk from the site I have yet to receive any correspondence. This suggests a disappointing lack of real dialogue with the local community. I believe there are significant issues with the regeneration that has taken place and the proposed community uses do not quite ring true; not least that the design has not significantly altered since 2009.”  Croydon resident, Upper Norwood Ward

“I believe that a new church is not desired by the majority of the local community – there are already ample churches with spare capacity in an increasingly secular society. Moreover, a cinema in the area would benefit local business and bring yet another service to Crystal Palace.” Croydon resident

“I thought it sensible to send you a note saying that, as a local resident, I firmly believe that this venue should not be used for religious purposes.  It is a secular venue and should remain as such.”  Bromley resident, Crystal Palace ward

“I would be delighted if the community local to the building were pro-actively consulted about its future. As far as I am aware there is a strong case for the building to retain its identity as an entertainment venue and widespread local support for a cinema to be developed here, allowing greater communal and educational opportunities to the local community than your proposals. I fully support the cinema campaign and its associated benefits for the regeneration of Church Road.” Croydon resident, Upper Norwood ward

“This building has been closed to the community for two years and these plans will result in the continued denial of this important entertainment space to the community for use as a private place of worship. No matter the advertising the local people will not use the space, the church will

I and everybody I have discussed this issue with are deeply opposed and feel that reverting back to a cinema would be the best solution to regenerate Church rd” Croydon resident, South Norwood ward

“Having seen the proposals I do not believe that the open door will be an inclusive community organisation and will be restricted to a handful of events that the KICC has approved. This was evidenced by the lack of clarity over what sort of events could be booked there and how often. They are also clearly not an inclusive organisation with clear indication that gay and lesbian events would not be welcome. I also don’t believe the Open Door is for the local community having heard that minibuses will be used to bring people to events from as far as Wimbledon. It’s such a shame that a great venue is not being used as it was intended and is being used for a small section of people who mainly do not live in Crystal Palace.”  Croydon resident, South Norwood ward

“Consultation from KICC with the community has been pure window dressing, and their open day farcical, with the hired planning associates sticking to an agreed script and failing to take on board any local concerns. None of the proposed community activities can’t actually be better served by existing CP institutions. And I seriously doubt the integrity of KICC – no mention was made of the baptism pool under the stage in their literature, and they seemed disinterested in hiring out the auditorium at their open day.

Traffic will be an issue. They have a flock of over 10,000 people, and their slogan on their website is ‘Taking Territories’. Who will be able to police that they won’t want to grow to 1000-plus attending twice weekly services. What effect will this have on local parking for local businesses and residents? I’m sure Mary Portas’s recent paper on rejuvenating local high streets didn’t recommend super churches and shipping in congregations as part of the solution to the demise of the high street. Plus there is also already a Pentecostal evangelical church in CP, which can surely meet the needs of the community.” Croydon resident, Upper Norwood ward

“I think your proposals are unclear and have a number of very serious concerns as to the reality of what a new community hub and multi-use facility will be in reality.” Lewisham resident, Sydenham ward

“As a local resident, I feel very strongly that a change of use from D2 to D1 is inappropriate for that particular building, as well as being of no benefit to the community as a whole.

By definition a D2 use is inclusive to all, irrespective of background or belief, whereas a D1 – specifically a place of worship, which would suit their operation – would exclude those who don’t share their religion.

A genuine assembly and leisure hub which is open to all, would be far more beneficial to that section of Church Road, and bring that particular building to life.”  Local resident

“We already have multi-use community spaces in Crystal Palace which are well-used and much more affordable than this building and we do not need any more. We also have many well-attended local places of worship which serve all sections of our community. We do not need another place of worship, especially not for non-local people, many of whom will drive (or be driven) to the venue, exacerbating the existing traffic issues in the area. This survey is slewed towards trying to get people to support your proposal but your supposed ‘consultation’ is flawed and should have been done 5 years ago when you bought the building before you started work, if you genuinely wished to provide a community facility, to find out what the community wanted and needed. Instead, you have done what you wish to the building whilst keeping it closed to the local community and now seek to foist it on us as a huge capacity church, with the supposed sweetener that we can use too whenever it’s not in use as a church (at a mere £500/hour).” Southwark resident, College Ward

“My main concerns are:

– since KICC’s purchase of 25 Church Road in 2009 the church has made little or no effort to offer the premises as ‘a community hub’ to the local community, or to consult us ab out the same until now (where the questions on this form are closed and slanted);

-The numbers attending the proposed church service on a Sunday was estimated at 400 people – but it was unclear how this figure had been calculated and differing answers were given to Open Door attendees about whether it was a local or regional congregation. According to its website, the KICC is very proud of its fast and large growth since 1992, and very keen to grow further. Like its premises in Walthamstow, any church services would very likely attract a large number of attendees coming by car, which would put severe pressure on the free flow of traffic in already stressed roads in the immediate area. In addition, many of those cars would exacerbate the parking problems nearby, usually worse at the weekends. This would have a detrimental effect on footfall needed for the business in and around I have no confidence in KICC’s travel consultants who believed that trip attractions for cars would be about 60 car trips and car parking need could be met by using local streets within 400m and Crystal Palace Park. However, I understand when challenged, it was clear that this assumed numbers attending would be limited to 400 people and many would use public transport. Clearly this can’t be guaranteed – after all the building holds up to 1100 people seated and 2,000 – 3,000 people standing.  To allow the KICC to hold church services, large conferences/music concerts would very probably worsen the traffic and parking problems around the Triangle, and add to the expected traffic problems to be caused by the major development o of part of Crystal Palace Park.” Bromley resident, Penge & Cator ward

” I have completed KICC’s “survey” (series of highly leading and partial statemen‎ts), but did so online as I was not sent a copy despite living two minutes away from 25 Church Road.  This means I was unable to send you a copy directly, which I consider to be necessary to demonstrate the strength of local opposition to KICC’s proposals for this building. It is likely that KICC’s large membership, spread across a number of counties, will be encouraged to complete the survey in support in an attempt to outweigh local opposition.

I consider this survey to be a cynical attempt at a veneer of local public engagement. Asides from the phrasing of the‎ questions, it does not address any of the key concerns about the proposal, which I set out in the comments section:

– it makes no mention of KICC’s intended primary use of the building, i.e. a church. Nor does it seek residents’ views on the number of services to be held or, crucially, the size of the congregation. This building can hold 3,000. This number of people arriving and departing, at the same time, in such a tight space – narrow, busy road, extremely narrow pavement, no parking – would have a massive impact on the area.

– encouraging KICC’s congregation to use local residential roads and Crystal Palace Park for parking – this perfectly exemplifies KICC dismissive and selfish approach to the local community. And, of course, these are small and congested roads without spare capacity – and the regeneration works to the Park include removing much of the central parking area.

– proposals for Controlled Parking Zones to deal with the massive influx of KICC church-goers. Local traders depend largely on weekend business, and have already reported substantial drop-offs in trade during the religious activities KICC has already held in this D2 designated building.

– the range of “community benefits” the proposal sets out is farcical. The CP area already has sufficient “wifi”, “meeting rooms”, “disabled access(??)” and, particularly cafes.

– the survey mentions a “cinema club”. What it doesn’t mention is that this would be restricted to U-rated family films – hardly of interest to the majority of the CP community.

– the survey does not mention that the proposed hire cost‎ of the main auditorium would be £500/hr – way beyond the means of any local community groups.

‎This is clearly just a snapshot of Crystal Palace residents’ concerns about KICC’s proposed use of this major local D2 asset, many of which have been set out in response to KICC’s previous, failed bid to change the use class of 25 Church Road. This “survey” is a wholly disingenuous and cyncial attempt to manipulate the community engagement requirements of the planning process. I trust LB Bromley will recognise it for what it is.” Bromley resident, Crystal Palace ward

 

One Response to Your comments on Kingsway International Christian Centre’s survey and proposals for change of use of 25 Church Road

  1. Angela wilkins November 3, 2014 at 8:04 am #

    As councillor for Crystal Palace Ward, I just want to thank you for your input on the KICC issue. I can also say that ,to date, no one other than KICC management has contacted me in support of what they are proposing to do here.
    Please be assured that Cllr Richard Williams and I will be opposing the application for change of use once it is submitted to the council. We are also meeting council officers in a couple of days to talk about this specific application but also the wider problems and future if the building. And we would both love to see a cinema in the Triangle!

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