Last week I went along to the Planning Committee as they were due to discuss the UCKG Church’s planning application to turn the old Granada Cinema in Hoe Street, into a church. My colleague Councillor Mahmood Khan was due to speak to the committee as his ward includes the cinema.
The Committee normally sits in the Town Hall but was transferred to the nearby Assembly Hall. A good job too, as hundreds of people from the Church and the local residents turned up and packed the assembly hall. Hundreds were locked out as there was not any more room inside.
Liberal Democrat councillor Mahmood Hussain told Waltham Forest’s Planning Committee that the council should refuse the planning application submitted by UCKG to turn the EMD Cinema into a religious assembly hall. He said:
“The key questions can be summarised very simply. Does the proposed development respect the building’s heritage and listed building status? Is the impact on the area and particularly on nearby residents acceptable? Does the proposed development contribute satisfactorily to the regeneration of Walthamstow Town Centre? On all three counts I believe the answer is no.
“This view is shared by an enormous number of local residents. Our borough has hundreds of places of worship of all types and sizes. But it does not have a single cinema. We have clear evidence that the building is potentially viable as a cinema, arts and entertainment venue.
“This would bring new life to the area and stimulate the local economy – unlike the proposal before you. The proposed changes to the building would destroy much of what is special about this unique building, which is one of the oldest, largest and best preserved cinema buildings in the country.
“Residents would suffer from the absence of a proper noise management scheme and from parking problems generated by cars descending on the area from miles away.
“For the sake of Walthamstow please listen to local people, weigh up the planning merits of the case and refuse the application.”
Speaking after the decision to refuse the planning application both I and Councillor Hussain said we were delighted that the Planning Committee had listened to the arguments put forward by objectors.
“This is good and important news for Walthamstow Town Centre but it is only one step forward. Following two planning refusals and endless discussion we hope UKCG will now abandon their plan. We must allow those who are able to bring the cinema back into use the chance to realise the cinema’s true potential.”