CHURCH LOSE APPEAL OVER CINEMA BUILDING: “Plans would harm town centre’s vitality” says inspector
The Pentecostal church which owns the cinema building at 25 Church Road have lost their appeal against a Bromley council planning refusal to turn it into mixed church / community use.
In her judgment the planning inspector Claire Victory says:
- There is local support for a community cinema or other entertainment use
- The local area is already well-provided for places of worship with about 10 in the SE19 area
- Many of the events staged at 25 Church Road “appear to have a strong element of worship”KICC (Kingsway International Christian Centre) had appealed against the refusal of planning permission involving the change of use of 25 Church Road from use class D2 (assembly and leisure) to mixed-use comprising class D1 (place of worship, conference and non-residential religious education and training centre) and Class D2 (assembly and leisure) use.EVENTS: Some public events have been held within the auditorium including live opera and the screening of films”The appellant has also provided information on events held previously at the venue, but many of these appear to have a strong element of worship. In addition a limited amount of performances have been organised by a third party” says the inspector.”It appears that the approval of the appellant was required for each performance, and the cost of hiring the venue was relatively high. “Evidence from local residents also indicated that the type of events, including films have been relatively narrow in scope, for example only films rated U.
“Consequently the cost of hiring the venue and control of activities by the appellant would be likely to limit the variety of films or types of performances that may be shown on the premises, and narrow the range of activities that might be offered to the local community.”
CINEMA: The appellant has provided evidence to indicate that there is no demand for a cinema of this size with a single auditorium.
“Notwithstanding this, there is equally no evidence that the property has been marketed for this purpose by the appellant.
“Indeed, a cinema company sought to purchase the property at the time it was acquired by the appellant, and it has expressed a continuing interest in operating the property as a cinema.
“There is also local support for a community cinema or other entertainment use, and there have been other expressions of interest from companies interested in operating a cinema on the premises.”
CHURCH WORSHIP: The application form says that about 250 worshippers would attend events.
“The seating capacity of the venue is not stated but I saw that fixed seating in the upper tier and capacity for seating in the main hall would be likely to be in excess of that number.
“The appellant has indicated that a proportion of the worshippers would come from the existing church in Sutton, about eight miles away, although the transport study and the consultation responses, suggest the church would draw a wide catchment from North and East London and the wider South East area including parts of Kent and Essex.
“I have also had regard to KICC’s other venue in Walthamstow, which attracts significant numbers from a wide geographical area…….
“……Based on the evidence before me, the sub-regional catchment of KICC would generate a significant level of traffic, and it is likely that a substantial proportion would arrive by car, and this would be concentrated at certain times at the start and end of each service, with limited public car parking capacity in the vicinity of the appeal site, and no car parking on Church Road.
“Although the application refers to the opportunity to introduce legally binding management measures no planning obligation has been submitted with the appeal.
“Without such measures in place I cannot be certain that the proposal would not cause hazards or whether they could be adequately minimised.”
USE: The appeal proposal does not specify any part of the site that would be for Class D2 use.
“In terms of activities independent of the church, the application and supporting information do not indicate any specific times each week when the building would be available, or groups that would use the facility.
“As a result it is unclear whether such open access to other groups would be available and it
would be difficult to ensure that the proposed use would in practice be a mixed D1/D2 use.
“Furthermore, it is not apparent that any condition could be worded effectively to ensure a Class D2 use of either a part of the building or during particular times of the week.
“25 Church Road is the only large building of its type in the town centre. The National Planning Policy Framework contains policies that seek to ensure their vitality.
“Whilst the list of main town centre uses in the glossary includes entertainment it does not include places of worship.
“The lawful use of the building is so important to the overall function of the centre that the loss of the opportunity to reinstate a use exclusively within Class D2 should not be lost at this stage.
“Given the strength of local support for the retention of the Class D2 use this is a material consideration in the appeal.
“I have also taken into account the considerable investment made by the appellant in refurbishing the building, but this would not overcome the harm that I have identified.” (Appeal Ref: APP/G5180/W/15/3134762)
The Picture Palace Campaign, welcoming the decision, said: “The Planning Inspector has comprehensively dismissed KICC’s appeal against refusal of planning permission. “This is a significant milestone in keeping the building available for proper, public entertainment use, as it should be.”