A RELIGIOUS group could be forced to sell Walthamstow's historic former EMD cinema to the council under radical new plans.

Waltham Forest Council is to consider a Compulsory Purchase Order (CPO) of the building in Hoe Street to wrest control of it from owners the Universal Church of the Kingdom of God (UCKG), it has emerged.

The UCKG bought the listed cinema in 2002 for £2.8million and has been trying to get planning permission to convert it for religious use ever since.

The council's cabinet is to meet on December 4 and will decide whether to agree "in principle" to use taxpayers' money on a CPO - subject to as yet unspecified conditions.

The Waltham Forest Cinema Trust, which wants to reopen the building as a cinema and entertainment venue, previously said it could buy the building from the council if it did compulsory purchase the site.

The trust's chair Neil Gerrard, the former Labour MP for Walthamstow, told the Guardian only last month that he thought a CPO was unlikely in the current economic climate but was still possible.

The news comes with just weeks to go before the government's Planning Inspectorate meets to hear an appeal by the UCKG over the rejection of its proposals for the building.

The hearing is expected to last several weeks but the result is unlikely to be announced until early 2013.

Residents have until Thursday November 1 to submit comments to the hearing.

More to follow.