Friday, 6 February 2009

Council U-Turn on EMD

The deal being done behind closed doors between the UCKG and Waltham Forest Council is finally out in the open, and sadly, but unsurprisingly, the best interests of the local community have been sold up the river.

The "new" proposals are for the venue’s main auditorium (Cinema 1) to be used exclusively as a church, while some [small and inaccessible] remaining space may be adapted to create a 250-seat venue, which UCKG claims could be used to provide facilities for conferences, cinema, theatre and meetings. Alongside this, the adjoining carpet shop and Victoria pub would be closed and converted into UCKG ‘training rooms’ and ‘youth centre’.

We say "new", because to all intents and purposes this is exactly the same proposal which the council once deemed to be both "inappropriate and unviable with regard to the needs of the local community".

What has changed? Well, in the intervening years the UCKG have allowed the building to crumble to such an extent that it became Category A on English Heritage's At-Risk Register, English Heritage leant on the council, and demanded that they address the degenerating state of their Grade II* listed cinema. And now, forced to face-up to the difficult issues that the EMD presents, the council look likely to take the line of least resistance, and cave-in to the UCKG.

Of even greater concern than the wholly inequitable division of the EMD between the church and the community, is the precedent which the UCKG have already set in similar community "share" schemes. For more detailed information follow the links from the McGuffin EMD article at but in short, a few years ago the UCKG persuaded Lewisham council that their proposed church in Catford would share its space with an independent cinema and community centre. However, once planning was agreed the UCKG made sharing all but impossible, and with that the cinema and community centre dissolved, leaving the UCKG with the whole space.

Nice work!

With the Arcade development going down the pan, this is surely the council’s opportunity to stand up and be counted, take a lead in regenerating the town centre and successfully develop something for everyone in Walthamstow.

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