Dear Madam/ Sir

Re: Planning Application numbers: 2012/0764 and 0765/LB (Planning and Listed Building applications) (2012/0766 & 0767/LB duplicate applications) – Former Granada (EMD) Cinema, Victoria Public House, 186, 186a, 186b Hoe Street E17

I’m writing to urge the Council to refuse planning permission for the application detailed above.

As you may be aware, I have objected on several previous occasions the applicant has applied for planning permission for a church to be developed on this site. I believe this new version of the scheme the UCKG is proposing is still unacceptable and does not address the objections which have been articulated previously.

In particular, given the planning guidance on the use of heritage buildings such as this it is clear that the latest version of these plans which proposes mixed use for this site 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 – 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 – and so concerns about its heritage status are paramount to any planning application made for the site.

National planning guidance on heritage encourages local authorities to consider whether viable alternative uses for a site which are in keeping with the historic use of a building are possible 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 as it retains both the use of the building as a cinema and the opportunity for live performances as well. Above all, as it offers the opportunity to retain the use of the site which reflects its heritage value – it is therefore a superior offer to the plans put forward by the church.

The proposals by UCKG would also not contribute to the economic regeneration of the town centre in the way that such a major entertainment venue would. Indeed, 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 would 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 have a poor record of allowing access at the Rainbow in Finsbury Park, and reneged on their promise to include a cinema in the former ABC Cinema in Catford, so we can have little confidence that there would be significant public access to this heritage asset or that such clauses would in reality be possible to enforce. Thus, the UCKG’s scheme would deprive residents of day to day use of the main auditorium and its heritage, with no guarantee that access to the space would be preserved in perpetuity.

I wish also to express concerns as to whether their plans for cinema at this site are sustainable. Given the length of time this matter has been under review I find it extremely troubling that this proposal comes before the committee without a confirmed cinema operator to participate in this project and so show it is feasible. As well as the history of the failure of the UCKG to work with a cinema operator in Catford, it is difficult to find any other instance of a church sharing a building with a cinema in the way they are proposing. Thus without confirmation of the ability of the church to deliver this proposal, there can be no confidence that this latest plan is not solely an attempt to bypass the application of our local development framework to this site given it states a clear preference for cinema to be provided.

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. Indeed, I can personally confirm as a former councillor and now the MP for Walthamstow I am yet to receive a representation from a local resident in support of this or any former proposal made by the UCKG for this site. I am also concerned by the attitude of the church and its representatives who stated to me that such local support was not a factor in whether they would continue to press ahead with these proposals at their recent community consultation event. I believe this disregard for local opinion further undermines any suggestion of real commitment to community engagement by the UCKG within this application. Indeed it is clear to me that the settled will of the people of Waltham Forest – residents, elected representatives, and two previous planning decisions – is that the EMD Cinema should not be converted into a place of worship but instead be restored as a cinema able to drive the regeneration of Walthamstow town centre.

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 representations for this application.

Yours sincerely

 

Stella Creasy
MP for Walthamstow

 



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