Who are the Picture Palace Campaign?
We are a community organisation made up of local residents and traders who have come together to bring a cinema back to Crystal Palace. We believe a new cinema will be a resource to improve the quality of life in and beyond Crystal Palace. Cinema mixes commerce and culture, art and entertainment. The right cinema provides something for everyone.
We believe that a local cinema could bring enormous social, cultural and economic benefits to our community.
The catalyst for the campaign was the sale of the old Gala bingo hall to Kingsway International Christian Centre (KICC) in June 2009 after the KICC had outbid the independent cinema group City Screen who run the Picturehouses in Clapham, Brixton, Greenwich and elsewhere in the UK.
KICC announced that they intend to turn the venue into a place of worship (D1 planning use) despite the fact that the building has a designated D2 planning use for leisure.
The purchase of the Bingo hall by KICC came out of the blue and many of us just turned around and all said we wanted a cinema. People had been lobbying to bring a cinema to Crystal Palace for many years. The ex Gala bingo hall is the perfect venue. It was built as a cinema in 1928 and still retains many original features. We care passionately about retaining its D2 leisure use for the benefit of the whole community.
We will work to bring the whole community together to support the development of a new cinema for Crystal Palace.
Our underlying principles:
We support the establishment of a new cinema as a vehicle to drive forward the economic, social and cultural development of the Crystal Palace triangle. A new cinema will enhance the sustainability of the local evening economy and lead directly to general leisure retail and environmental improvements within the immediate vicinity.
A new cinema will provide a much needed cultural asset for the whole community, irregardless of their background or belief. A cinema will work with schools, colleges, lifelong learning programmes and community groups to increase the quality, range and amount of opportunities available for local residents.
We believe a new cinema is a means to build trade in existing businesses and stimulate new business activity. A cinema provides a focus for creative and media technology business and a wider resource for business and community usage, typically for meetings and small conferences.
A new cinema will be a unique asset providing the means for local people to gain access to and participate in audio visual culture. We want to build links with existing cultural and artistic activity in the area to create an inclusive cultural resource.
The campaign was formed in June 2009. The catalyst was the sale of the Gala Bingo Hall, 25 Church Road (the former 1920′s art deco Rialto cinema), to Kingsway International Christian Centre (KICC), which narrowly outbid independent cinema operator City Screen which run the Picturehouse Cinemas.
As a campaign we are actively exploring all options and locations for a cinema in the area. We are continuing to engage with our local councils, encouraging them to be more proactive in their approach to working in partnership with the community and key developers in Crystal Palace to identify and bring forward the mix of uses that are needed to create a district centre as a great place to live, work and play, a cinema being one of them.
Why does the campaign’s focus remain on restoring a cinema to 25 Church Road?
We are a community campaign. Through talking to you regularly over the past two years, we know you desperately want a cinema in Crystal Palace but we also recognise the enormous strength of feeling regarding the former Rialto cinema; particularly about how it is used. It is our only large building in Crystal Palace with a ‘D2’ entertainment use and is the perfect location and size for a cinema. Together, we have worked hard to retain the planning use of this heritage asset.
You have told us that this is an important building for shaping the future of the area. We know the potential of the building to be a key cultural anchor for the district centre, a fantastic vehicle for local meaning and identity, and a unique economic asset for the benefit of the Crystal Palace community.
But the building is owned by KICC and has been refurbished?
KICC, a religious charity, speculatively purchased the building, without the correct planning permission, as a church for its Wimbledon congregation and its membership from Surrey, south-east and south-west London and Kent. It also wants to relocate its Southern Regional Office function. KICC was refused planning permission in December 2009.
To date, KICC has refused to consult with the local community or talk to our local MPs about its plans for the building, despite Charity Commission guidelines suggesting that it should do so.
Three years on from the purchase, despite the wishes of the Crystal Palace community, KICC has ploughed on refurbishing the building, advising, via the press, that it intends to use “the hall for concerts, drama, exhibitions and conferences and also provide a single screen cinema, bookshop and coffee shop”.
Bromley council has told KICC that it does not have planning permission to use the building as ‘mixed use’ venue as it currently proposes.
As long as KICC’s proposed uses do not fall within the lawful ‘D2’ leisure/entertainment planning use, we believe it is legitimate to continue our focus on preserving and campaigning for an entertainment use at the building – one which would complement existing trade, create footfall throughout the day, support and diversify the night-time economy and which would not harm the development of Crystal Palace as a sustainable and thriving place for the people who live, work and use the Triangle for leisure, recreational and retail purposes.