More than a thousand residents lobby for a cinema

PUBLISHED: 16:41 21 October 2009 | UPDATED: 10:50 12 August 2010

CULTURE fans packed into a meeting lobbying a council to turn an old bingo hall into a cinema instead of a church, writes Kate Nelson. Residents from all over south-east London squeezed themselves into the banqueting suite at the Queen s Head Hotel, in C

SUPPORT: Pixie Lott

CULTURE fans packed into a meeting lobbying a council to turn an old bingo hall into a cinema instead of a church, writes Kate Nelson.

Residents from all over south-east London squeezed themselves into the banqueting suite at the Queen's Head Hotel, in Church Road, Crystal Palace, last Sunday to hear rousing speeches from cinema campaigners, MPs, councillors and GLA members.

Members of the Picture Palace Campaign want Bromley council to refuse an application by Kingsway International Christian Centre (KICC), to change use of the former Gala bingo hall in Crystal Palace from 'leisure' into 'worship'.

KICC controversially outbid independent cinema group City Screen for the site in Church Road in June.

City Screens Director of Programming Claire Binns promised the animated audience a cinema for people of "all ages, races, creeds and colours" should the company be allowed to buy the site back.

Addressing them she said: "A cinema can change the nature of the place it exists in. It is so important - it just makes such a difference. I just want you all to keep going because I would love to build a cinema here."

Picture Palace campaign chair Annabel Sidney said the meeting was a celebration of all the hard work by the whole community and congratulated them on handing a petition of over 7,000 signatures, including 115 from traders, against the proposals to Bromley council.

Speaking about the massive turnout she said: "I'm absolutely overwhelmed. I cannot believe it. Support for this campaign has been incredible."

Earlier she told the audience how one supporter had sold his home and bought one in Anerley just so he could write an objection to Bromley council as a 'local' resident.

The Bromley Times exclusively revealed how pop princess Pixie Lott, a former Chislehurst Italia Conti student, promised to sing at the opening of the cinema should it go ahead. Hollywood director Spike Jonze, who made Being John Malkovich has also thrown his weight behind the campaign.

Politicians from Bromley, Lambeth, Croydon and Southwark joined residents and traders in pledging their unequivocal support.

Bromley council leader Stephen Carr was applauded when he introduced himself. He said he couldn't comment directly on the pending application by KICC, who are based in east London, but added: "Bromley council will support the needs of local people over those who come from other parts."

Reverend Andrew Rumsey of Christ Church, Gipsy Hill, mused that KICC had unknowingly bought a site which was extremely close to residents' hearts.

He said: "Kingsway are not deliberately provoking local interests, why would they? They have unwittingly planned on a site which carries with it our hopes of a cinema."

But despite representatives from KICC being in the audience, they did not make themselves known and declined to address residents.

Ms Sidney said she had been disappointed by their lack of consultation with locals.

She told the audience: "They have gone against recommendations by Bromley council to speak to residents. They have refused to speak to us which is very, very disappointing. I would hope that they would respect the wishes of this community. We want to help them find an alternative site."

The application is due to be considered by Croydon council at a planning committee meeting tonight who will then make their recommendations, but the ultimate decision lies with Bromley council.

GLA member for Croydon and Sutton Steve O'Connell said he would be lobbying his council to refuse it.

He said: "I object to the church's application. I would urge people to come to the meeting. My recommendations are not just for the regeneration of the area but also for parking and traffic reasons."

Asked what he thought Bromley council would do, he said: "They don't really have any choice but to refuse it."

Bromley council has yet to set a date for its public meeting but Croydon council's takes place this evening at the Town Hall in Katherine Street, Croydon at 6.30pm

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