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Former EMD church plan rejected

East London and West Essex Guardian Series: LIVE: Former EMD planning decision LIVE: Former EMD planning decision

Councillors have uninimously rejected an application to turn the former EMD cinema into a church.

LIVE FEED FROM WALTHAMSTOW ASSEMBLY HALL 7.30pm

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Despite the heavy showers only a few minutes ago, it would be great understatement to say that excitement has been building up outside the assembly hall.

The grounds of the town hall was only a few minutes ago awash with about 200 to 300 UCKG supporters and about 300 to 400 EMD supporters.

Banners were flying high from both groups and there are also two bag pipe players parading around the fountain.

Many of them have not been able to get into the hall, which is now full to the brim.

7.33pm

Excitement is palpable in the hall, which is full to the brim, with chants from both sides.

Committee chair, Peter Barnett has had to call for peace and civility, following chants from about 500 UCKG members wearing bright yellow workmen's jackets and "save our cinema" chants by about 300 cinema supporters.

7.45pm

The planning officer is now talking about its reasons for refusal: "It is not considered that the proposals do not represent a sufficient economic driver or form of investment in the town centre."

7.51pm The planning officer's speech is being interrupted by repeated banging on the door and the sounds of bag pipe playing and a car horn sounding outside.

7.55pm

Two of the expected speakers at the meeting appear to be unable to get in because they are outside. Cllr Barnett trying to calm hall down the hall.

7.59pm

Caramel Quinn speaking of Cleveland Park Aveneu Residents Association asks council to reject planning application.

She said: "Please refuse this planning application. it is what residents want." 8pm Bill Hodgson of McGuffins now speaking in support of the EMD to remain as a cinema.

He said: "The cinema is central to us." He Mentioned that the church has admitted it has recieved 12 offers from buyers.

"So clearly it is commercially viable, despite was UCKG are saying," he added.

"There is no possibility of the community having again such a beautiful landmark as this."

"Whatever decision is made this community says no."

He has urged the council to "make good history" at the meeting and save the cinema.

8.05pm

Loud chants can be heard outside

8.11pm

James Atkinson from Waltham Forest Cinema Trust talks about its proposal to restore the cinema and take it back to its original use.

The plan is to put ownership in the hands of a trust, restore the cinema and offer educational and community programmes.

He said: "We have no doubt a restored cinema will bring success to the area."

8.15pm

Andre Johnson, a former gang member from Walthamstow, talks about how UCKG turned his life around.

He said after his mother passed away when he was 10 he turned towards crime.

He was invited to a football match, sponsored by the church, and met "positive and happy" people, rather than those he surrounded himself with, who were without any goals in life.

His speech is greeted with riotous applause.

8.20pm

Guylene Rennale talks about how her life turned around about four years ago after she came into contact with UCKG.

She said she was previously suicidal after her partner left her alone with a child.

She added: "When I look at my life today, I have a very good job and good life.

"If it was not for UCKG I would not be where I am today."

8.21pm

Pastor Paul Hill's speech has prompted shouts of support and anger.

He said: "We bought the building in 2003 in response to local residents who wanted a help centre near their homes.

"This end remains the same and has not changed whatever the outcome of the meeting.

"In short this cinema is ours.

"There is a pressing need for this centre, as our 3,000 local members show.

He says the site has been chosen because it is central, good transport links and is the right size.

8.40pm

Cllrs Clair Coghill and Mark Rusling have said they collectively represent 20,000 residents and 'not one' person has expressed support for UCKG's application.

Cllr Coghill expressed disappointment that, although she had requested a meeting four times with UCKG representatives, they declined to meet with her.

She said she regarded this as “contempt”.

8.46pm

Members of the planning committee are now speaking.

Cllr Edwin Northover said it was disgraceful the cinema had been allowed to fall into a state of disrepair.

He is not convinced that a cinema is not viable.

But he acknowledged the original application had changed to include community use, he believed that it still excluded some parts of the community.

He added there was a “special interest” to be tapped into with the building.

He said: "The UCKG said it is their building and there has not been a market for it, but that it because they have been sitting on it for ten years refusing to sell it.

"I am touched by the stories (from UCKG supporters), but those life-changing stories are 'incidental' and can happen in other areas of the borough.

He ended by showing his support for officers recommendations.

8.57pm

Cllr Alan Siggers said he acknowledges the cinema belongs to UCKG but added: “What you do with it is not down to you.”

This was followed by rapturous applause from EMD supporters.

Cllr Alan Siggers is not convinced that there are not other facilities to provide help to the community.

He said for UCKG to suggest it is the only one who can provide a specific kind of help “did not sit well” with him.

“A heritage site is a non renewable resource,” he added.

9.04pm

Cllr Siggers has seconded planning officers recommendations Cllr Mahmood has 'no problem' with the church but questoned whether the location was appropriate.

He added: “I personally will not be supporting this application.”

9.10pm

Cllr Liz Phillips says she has “sympathy” for the future congregation of the church because the building was bought 'possibly' with their money in 2003 and nothing has happened.

She added: “I would love it to come back as a cinema”. “I also have to agree with the officers recommendations.”

9.15pm

Cllr Ebony Vincent has also redistered her support for planning officers' recommendation to reject the application.

9.18pm

Councillors have unanimously supported planning officers' recommendation to reject the application.

Audio report: Listen to the crowds chanting:

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