A CHRISTIAN group has bought an historic former cinema and bingo hall with the intention of converting it into a church.

The Potter's House Christian Fellowship has taken over the historic 'Savoy' building in Lea Bridge Road, Leyton, at the junction with Markhouse Road.

The venue closed as a branch of Gala Bingo on Saturday (November 17).

The group has applied for planning permission to Waltham Forest Council to change the use of the site to a place of worship.

Potter's House, which has been described as an evangelical group, already has a church in Folkestone Road, Walthamstow, which is listed as its main UK address.

A statement on its website says it is a member of the ‘Christian Fellowship Churches’, which was started in the early ’70s by a pastor in Arizona.

It states: "Our desire and aim is to see men and women fulfil God’s calling for their lives in the various ministries that are available for Christian believers according to God’s word and personal calling".

Lea Bridge Road resident and local heritage campaigner Katy Andrews said she was concerned attempts to convert the site could mirror the saga of the former EMD cinema in Hoe Street, Walthamstow.

That building was bought by Christian group the Universal Church of the Kingdom of God (UCKG) in 2002 but has been derelict ever since due to various failed attempts by the group to get permission to convert it into a place of worship.

Ms Andrews, who joined the bingo club when she discovered the building was about to be sold, said: "It's a beautiful and historic building so it would be a real shame if it was left empty.

"The building has a capacity of over 1,000 and residents are up in arms partly over worries about parking but also about the loss of yet another entertainment place in the local area.

"It was a very popular place for older women in the area and operated almost like a lunch club for many of them."

A spokeswoman for Gala Bingo said the sale had been made for "commercial" reasons.

She added: "We have been considering the welfare of our staff and customers every step of the way and are currently in consultation with the club’s 19 employees,  where possible we will be looking to find them alternative employment opportunities within the Group. 

"We also recognise the important role the club plays in the community, and will continue to offer our customers an enjoyable bingo experience at our nearby clubs in Stratford and East Ham."

The art deco building opened in 1928 as a purpose built cinema with a capacity of 1,795 and was the first in the borough to show 'talkies' with sound.

The Guardian has approached Potter's House for a comment.