Walthamstow cinema church plan rejected by government

Protesters outside the former cinema Campaigners want the building, which has been empty since 2003, to be restored

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Plans to turn a former east London cinema into a church have been rejected by the government.

The Universal Church of the Kingdom of God (UCKG) wanted to transform the former EMD cinema in Walthamstow into a place of worship.

Plans, first thrown out by Walthamstow Council, have now been rejected by Local Government and Communities Secretary Eric Pickles.

First built in 1896, the cinema was frequently visited by Alfred Hitchcock.

UCKG, a Brazilian evangelical church, said it wanted the venue to include a "miniplex cinema" with six screens with with a total of 690 seats, a training centre, children's area, bookshop, cafe and two flats, including pastor's accommodation.

A planning application for the Grade II listed cinema was also turned down in 2011.

EMD Cinema The Grade II listed building opened as The Granada cinema in 1930

Campaigners want the building restored to a functioning cinema.

Bill Hodgson, of the McGuffin Film Society, which has campaigned against the plans, said the site played host to one of London's first film shows in 1896.

"The EMD Cinema is probably the most loved building in the area and the outpouring of support for its revival has been overwhelming," he said.

"It is an architectural masterpiece and the last substantial entertainment venue left in this part of London. There are numerous other buildings which UCKG could convert for their activities but a cinema like this is irreplaceable."

A letter from the Department for Communities and Local Government said the plans did not represent "the optimum viable use for the building."

The building opened as The Granada in 1930 and dates back to 1887. It has also been a music venue and hosted concerts by the likes of The Rolling Stones and The Beatles.

UCKG bought the cinema in 2003, but it has remained empty since the church's first application to convert the building was rejected. It said its plans also included restoring the 1,000 seat auditorium.

UCKG Help Centre was registered as a charity in 1995 and has 14 centres in London and the South East.

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    08:00: Good morning Beth Rose BBC News Online

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