I have sent the following letter to the Planning Inspectorate, urging them to reject the appeal to develop the EMD Cinema into a church.

The deadline for objections to be received is 24 February. They can be emailed to Alan.Ridley@pins.gsi.gov.uk .
Alan Ridley
The Planning Inspectorate
Kite Wing
Temple Quay House
The Square
Temple Quay

16 February 2012

Dear Mr Ridley

Re: Planning Application APP/U5930/A/11/2165348 The EMD (Former Granada) Cinema, 186, 186A/186B Hoe Street, Walthamstow E17

As the MP for Walthamstow I write to urge you to uphold the decision of the London Borough of Waltham Forest to reject the application for planning permission listed above.

The decision to reject these proposals should be upheld for a number of reasons. First, this Grade II* listed building is unique not only within Walthamstow but within Britain. It is the very last of Komisarjevsky’s cinemas in the whole of the UK that hasn’t already been demolished or turned into a supermarket, health club or bingo hall.

According to ‘Planning Policy Statement 5: Planning for the Historic Environment’ the first option for any such listed building should be its retention in the purpose for which it was intended. The use proposed in this application would not therefore be in keeping with this guidance and the approval for these proposals would deprive Waltham Forest of a major part of its cultural heritage and potential tourism revenue.

The most renowned feature of the cinema is the main auditorium. However, under these proposals this area would be restricted to members of the church and not available for hire. The UCKG state they will use it for special events and cite their use of the Finsbury Park Rainbow as an example. I note that in the 13 years since UCKG has been operating at the Rainbow, only two films have been screened in its main auditorium offering such access.

I further note that PPG 5 refers to the importance of not giving consideration to any ‘deliberate neglect or damage to a heritage asset’ in considering whether to approve an application. Last year when the building was illegally occupied following a rave I was able to gain access to the building. I discovered substantial damage to the interior of the building whilst under the protection of its current owners the UCKG. This included water flooding the main auditorium as well as from the roof cascading down the walls. There was also damage to large parts of the building arising from the infestation of pigeons in the building. I believe that this damage – which was sizeable- should be seen as evidence of a poor approach by the current owners to the maintenance of the building and so its heritage value.

The planning guidance states local authorities should ‘take into account the particular nature of the significance of the heritage asset and the value that it holds for this and future generations’.  As the MP for the area in which this building is based I can confirm that I have had no correspondence in favour of this application being granted. In contrast I have had substantial correspondence regarding the importance and significance residents place on this building being restored as a cinema and commitment to the regeneration of our local town centre. Given this I believe rejecting this proposal would be in accordance with this guidance. This is the second time such proposals have been made by the applicant and rejected in Waltham Forest, reflecting the persistent and settled will of our community that these plans are not in the best interests of Walthamstow.

As well as the historical value of this venue, it has an integral role to play in Walthamstow’s future. The planning guidance quoted above also highlights the

importance in considering any ‘viable use of the heritage asset itself…that will enable its conservation’. The building was closed as a cinema, despite being a going concern, when it was purchased by the UKCG in 2003. Since this point there have been numerous attempts to buy the building back for use as a cinema by independent and mainstream cinema operators, reflecting the commercial viability for this use.

At present there are well established and supported plans for the restoration of this building as an entertainment venue and cinema by the Waltham Forest Cinema Trust. Whilst the present owners of the building claim to have plans that will offer facilities for Walthamstow, the loss of this building as a future venue for entertainment and culture would be irreplaceable. As the Trust offers the potential to conserve the building in its original intended use as a cinema I urge the Inspector to have regard to this principle in the planning guidance and reject the application which would convert the building to a religious establishment – and so not be in keeping with its heritage.

Such a redevelopment is also integral to the ability of our community to meet the challenges we face during these difficult economic times. Walthamstow now has nearly 5,000 people out of work and therefore plans to develop a nighttime economy are vital to the future prosperity of the area and its residents. The EMD cinema forms a key part of these plans, and without this the remaining regeneration of the Walthamstow town centre area is at risk. When these proposals were first mooted in 2003, the then Planning Inspector, in the 2003 Appeal, visited the UCKG’s largest UK centre in Finsbury Park and concluded: ‘Nothing in the commercial life of that area appeared to benefit from the UCKG Helpcentre’.

Refusal of these plans will uphold the importance of Walthamstow’s heritage assets to its future progress. I hope the Planning Inspector will therefore take this opportunity to support the will of the local authority and the local community in Walthamstow by rejecting the appeal and help us ensure our local heritage is not only protected but utilised for its best effect.

Thank you for taking the time to read this correspondence – I should be grateful for confirmation that this letter has been received and included in the submissions to the Inspectorate. I would also be happy to present these arguments to the Inspector should this be of benefit.

Yours sincerely

Stella Creasy
MP for Walthamstow

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