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Cinema will keep us in business, traders plead

PUBLISHED: 16:35 30 September 2009 | UPDATED: 15:52 16 August 2010

BUSINESS owners say that transforming a bingo hall into a cinema rather than a church is vital if they are to remain open. Thousands of

BUSINESS owners say that transforming a bingo hall into a cinema rather than a church is vital if they are to remain open.

Thousands of residents have joined a campaign to stop Kingsway International Christian Centre (KICC), which bought the former Gala bingo hall in Church Road in June, changing the use of the building from leisure to worship.

Dozens of shops have gone out of business in Crystal Palace in the past few months because of the recession but traders believe that having an independent cinema would help them survive by bringing more people to the area.

Bromley council sent out consultation documents on September 16 to residents and business owners who now have until October 1 to make their views known.

Father-of-two Amish Patel, 43, who owns the Sweet Shop in Westow Hill, said: "If it carries on like this, more shops will close. Lots have shut already in the past few months and they are remaining empty. At least a cinema will bring more people to the area. At the moment, Church Street is like a ghost street.

"People are going elsewhere to shop because they think: 'Is it worthwhile coming to Crystal Palace?' It's making us scared."

There is a Facebook campaign with nearly 5,000 members and many shops have displayed postcards in windows which read: "Support a cinema for Crystal Palace. If they (KICC) succeed in changing the use from leisure to place of worship we will lose our last large entertainment venue and any chance of a cinema in the area." They go on to tell people how they can object to the proposals.

One postcard was on show at Joanna's restaurant in Westow Hill. Assistant manager Victor Fernandes, 25, said: "We are supporting a cinema. It would be good for the whole community. There are lots of restaurants here but a cinema would be something different.

"We have been handing out postcards to every customer asking them to join the campaign. Many of them have made good comments."

Restaurateur Ashleigh Hope, who owns Numidie in Westow Hill, has also displayed a postcard in her window. She said: "It would bring more people to the area. It would be good for the people who live around here. It would be good to have more entertainment and would bring us more trade."

But pensioner Jessie Cousins, 80, of Church Road, said she was happy for the building to become a church as long as it did not bring too much traffic to the area. She said: "I don't mind what it is so long as it doesn't disturb the peace and quiet. Everything deserves a home."

A target date for the decision has been set for December. A spokesperson for KICC was unavailable for comment at the time of going to press.

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