As part of their long running attempt to convert Walthamstow’s Granada EMD Cinema into a church, The United Church of the Kingdom of God has submitted yet another new planning application for this building. The fight to stop this and restore our cinema has been going on since 2002 when they bought the site. Yet again, this latest proposal requires us as a community to speak out if we wish to challenge their plans so that the alternative plan to restore the cinema can be brought forward.
The new proposal
The new element in this latest plan from the UCKG, in contrast to their earlier proposals, is six very compact screening rooms around the periphery of the main auditorium, totalling 690 seats. The main auditorium remains reserved for church use, with no meaningful access to non-UCKG members.In other respects there is little change from the previous plans that have been overwhelmingly rejected repeatedly by the local community and the local council. The full details of the application are on the Council’s website.
Residents need to object
The Waltham Forest Cinema Trust and the McGuffins will be making representations on this as will I, but it is vital individual residents also make their views known by writing directly to the planners – please note more national UKCG members than Walthamstow residents wrote to the planning inspectorate about their previous application to support it being approved and it is clear the church has considerable resources to put towards making their case. There is no question that there is minimal local support for the UCKG proposals. (No local elected representatives have had any significant volume of letters or emails supporting them, in contrast to the large numbers against.)
Where to send your objection
As this is a new application it has been sent to the local authority, not the national planning inspectorate, to consider. Please note they must consider this new application on its own merits rather than in the context of any previous application, so any previous correspondence you may have sent on this matter will not be relevant for this purpose.
Please send your objections into the council by Friday 13 July 2012. Objections should be sent to email@example.com.
What to mention in your objection
- The mixed use that UCKG are suggesting does not preserve the heritage of the building. Heritage is not just about the fabric of the building, it is also about what it is used for and how this reflects its history. The best use for this building is the purpose for which it was built, as an entertainment venue. It is a Grade II* listed building and so concerns about its heritage status are paramount to any planning application made for the site.
- Heritage planning legislation encourages local authorities to consider if viable alternative uses for a site which are in keeping with the historic use of a building can still happen when considering a plan which would change the use of a building. If such a viable alternative exists this can be used as evidence to refuse an application. It is important therefore to highlight The Waltham Forest Cinema Trust plans to restore the building as an entertainment venue. This planned alternative use is commercially viable and would be in keeping with the heritage of the site, combining live performances in the main auditorium, plus some film screenings and live screenings of events. This proposal is also distinctive from any possibility of a multiplex in the town centre area in the future because it will aim for a different market. Above all, as it offers the opportunity to retain the use of the site which reflects its heritage value it is a superior offer to the plans put forward by the church.
- The proposals by UCKG would also not contribute anywhere near as much to the economic regeneration of the town centre as a major entertainment venue would. The scale of cinema provision in their plans is limited. In contrast, the proposals by the Cinema Trust sit alongside and complement the possibility of a multiplex in the area, so giving the town centre a sizeable and attractive entertainment hub, which has to be good for local businesses.
- The UCKG plans severely limit public access to the main auditorium which is a unique space. They are suggesting a minimum of 12 days a year when it could be used for purposes other than their own. They also have a poor record of allowing access at the Rainbow in Finsbury Park, so we can have little confidence that there would be significant public access to this heritage asset.
- There have to be serious doubts about whether their plans are sustainable. We know of no other instance of a church sharing a building with a cinema in the way they are proposing. In a multicultural area like Walthamstow many people would not want to use the cinema if it meant (as it would under their plans) having to pass through what are essentially church areas.