Lib Dem Councillors Mahmood Hussain and Bob Sullivan with local residents at the Planning Meeting

Liberal Democrat councillor Mahmood Hussain on Wednnesday 18 May told Waltham Forest’s Planning Committee that the council should refuse the planning application submitted by UKCG to turn the EMD Cinema into a religious assembly hall.

Councillor Hussain, who represents High Street ward which includes the EMD Cinema site, said:

“The key questions can be summarised very simply. Does the proposed development respect the building’s heritage and listed building status? Is the impact on the area and particularly on nearby residents acceptable? Does the proposed development contribute satisfactorily to the regeneration of Walthamstow Town Centre? On all three counts I believe the answer is no.

“This view is shared by an enormous number of local residents. Our borough has hundreds of places of worship of all types and sizes. But it does not have a single cinema. We have clear evidence that the building is potentially viable as a cinema, arts and entertainment venue.

“This would bring new life to the area and stimulate the local economy – unlike the proposal before you. The proposed changes to the building would destroy much of what is special about this unique building, which is one of the oldest, largest and best preserved cinema buildings in the country.

“Residents would suffer from the absence of a proper noise management scheme and from parking problems generated by cars descending on the area from miles away.

“For the sake of Walthamstow please listen to local people, weigh up the planning merits of the case and refuse the application.”

Speaking after the decision to refuse the planning application Councillor Hussain said he was delighted that the Planning Committee had listened to the arguments put forward by objectors.

“This is good and important news for Walthamstow Town Centre but it is only one step forward. Following two planning refusals and endless discussion I hope UKCG will now abandon their plan. We must allow those who are able to bring the cinema back into use the chance to realise the cinema’s true potential.”

Lib Dems welcome High Street ward recount result

Four months after the residents of Walthamstow went to the polls, the courts today declared the correct election result. Liberal Democrat candidate Mahmood Hussain is the new councillor for High Street ward.

The court confirmed that the council made a serious mistake at the election count on 7th May and 1,000 votes were wrongly added to the Labour’ candidates’ total.

Liberal Democrat Group Leader, Bob Sullivan, said:

“I am delighted to welcome Mahmood Hussain to the Liberal Democrat Group on the council. At last the people of High Street ward have the councillors that they voted for. The council’s mistake at the count should never have happened. It cost local taxpayers thousands of pounds in legal fees and deprived local residents of the representatives they voted for.”

Mahmood Hussain said:

“It is an honour to be elected to serve the residents of High Street ward. I will do all I can to stand up for the interests of local people and make sure that their needs are not ignored by the Labour council.

There are lots of issues to take up, including the future of the EMD cinema, looking after Walthamstow market and local services and pressing Labour to come clean on its plans for the Arcade site. I will work with residents to improve safety and security in the area and to protect and improve the local environment.”

Mahmood Hussain has lived in Walthamstow for the past 27 years and has always taken a keen interest in the local community. He works locally and is a trustee of a Walthamstow based charity.

EMD Cinema report: a positive step forward

EMD Cinema, WalthamstowLocal Liberal Democrats have welcomed the publication of Locum Consulting’s report about the EMD Cinema in Walthamstow.

Mahmood Hussain, who was Liberal Democrat candidate for High Street ward in May’s council election, said:

“The publication of this report definitely moves the debate forward. Locum Consulting has set out a realistic vision of a cinema orientated multi-use venue which would help regenerate Walthamstow Town Centre and improve the cultural life of the area. It is extremely disappointing that the comments made by the Labour leader of the council are so dismissive.”

Liberal Democrat Group Leader Bob Sullivan added:

“Of course there are many obstacles ahead and much depends on the attitude of the UCKG which owns the cinema. We urge the church to respond positively. The council does not have the money to fund the project on its own. But it should be prepared to work closely in partnership with any Trust or Community Interest Company that emerges, and provide practical support to kick-start the process.

“Waltham Forest council must also take full account of the EMD cinema’s potential when it makes decisions about the neighbouring Arcade site. The Lib Dems will be pressing hard for the council to adopt a more constructive attitude.”

You can download a copy of the report from the McGuffin Film Society website [PDF].

Labour councillors vote to avoid scrutiny of their policies

Labour councillors last night voted to duck close examination of their policies by excluding Liberal Democrat councillors from six key council committees.

In a cynical move the Labour Party voted to reduce the size of each scrutiny sub-committee to just five members, each consisting of three Labour councillors and two Conservative councillors but no Liberal Democrats.

“Labour is running scared of proper scrutiny,” said Liberal Democrat Group Leader Bob Sullivan, who also used the meeting to raise questions about primary school places, the EMD cinema and the Arcade site.

“It is a bad sign that the first act of the Labour administration is to close down debate and discussion. They don’t seem to realise that residents expect councillors to work together on the many difficult challenges facing our area. Despite the problems caused by Labour’s actions the Lib Dem group will continue to speak up for local residents and fight for their interests.”

Until last night’s Annual Council Meeting seven councillors served on each scrutiny sub-committee. This would have given the Liberal Democrats one seat on each committee. A Liberal Democrat attempt to halt the change was defeated by the Labour majority.

The six scrutiny sub-committees deal with:

  • Children and Young People
  • Health, Adults and Older People
  • Performance Improvement
  • Community Safety and Housing
  • Environment
  • Finance

Former Cinemas in Spotlight

Former bingo hall & cinema in Buxton Road, E17A former bingo hall in Walthamstow High Street has been thrown into the spotlight in a recent Waltham Forest Guardian article.

Whilst the EMD has been the centre of attention for the last few years the 80 year old former Dominion cinema has sadly fallen into disrepair since its closure in the mid 90’s.

Residents have been leaving comments on the Guardians website suggesting the Council considers brokering a deal with the owners of the EMD to swap buildings.

Resonding to residents comments, Lib Dem Leader and Deputy Leader of the Council, Cllr John Macklin, said:

“I have read with interest residents comments regarding the Buxton Hall site and possible links with the EMD. It is something I have discussed with the Chief Executive of the Council as an idea.”

“At present we are not dealing with a certain solution but one which relies on many complex stages. We need to consider IF the council can obtain Buxton Hall, then IF the church wants to do a deal. We then have to determine whether a cinema operator will help us return the EMD to a cinema. Finally, we have the additional problems of Labours plans for the Arcade site and UKCG’s planning application.”

“I can state again that the preferred option for Lib Dems, with regard to the EMD, is a cinema but we are also aware that the UKCG has the need to provide a good quality venue for its congregation.”

In 2007 Lib Dem High Street Councillor, James O’Rourke, participated in the Prince’s Foundation for the Built Environment public enquiry on the future of the Walthamstow Town Centre where he suggested Buxton Hall is considered as a possible Community theatre and multi-use space.

Cllr O’Rourke said: “Working with the Prince’s Foundation for the Built Environment not long after my election was exciting. As a new councillor I was stirred up by the prospects for the area I grew up in and now represent. Sadly. three years on the Prince’s Foundation Masterplan has become yet another mantlepiece exhibit for Labour’s Regeneration Cabinet member.”

“We need action, as demonstrated by neighbouring boroughs, not just masterplans”

EMD: More Labour Misinformation

High Street Focus Team have received a number of inquiries from concerned residents following the delivery of a Labour leaflet in High Street ward.

Under the banner ‘Fighting to save Walthamstow’s EMD cinema’ Labour’s Parliamentary candidate for Walthamstow asks residents to “join [her] and McGuffins at the council planning hearing in January as we demonstrate against plans to close our cinema.”

In response to an inquiry from High Street ward Councillor, James O’Rourke, the Councils planning department confirmed that there is no planning committee in January and stated “There are still a number of issues for discussion with the applicants and their agents and we are still reviewing all the responses from statutory, non statutory groups and residents. Once matters progress further we will be in a better position to consider a Committee date.”

In a joint statement Cllr O’Rourke and Council Deputy Leader, Cllr John Macklin, said:

“This is yet more Labour misinformation and maneuvering to add to that which has taken place over a number of years and has fed such confusion and dismay amongst residents.”

“We have had a number of meetings with the UCKG and independent cinema operators and a cinema at the EMD is our preferred option.”

Labour ‘trying to rush through St James St library sale’

The local Waltham Forest Guardian is reporting that Labour councillors tried unsuccessfully “to force the sale of the fomer St James St library building on to a Cabinet agenda”.

The Guardian reports that the attempt to push through the sale of the former St James St library building was stopped when Liberal Democrat Leader Cllr John Macklin refused the request and withdrew the report from the agenda.  The move came at the same Cabinet meeting as the controversial decision to go ahead with plans for an Arcade site development which raises doubts over the future of the Pool and Track facility.

Click here to see what the local press are reporting.

Lib Dems opposed to new attempts to close Pool and Track

Cllr John Macklin vists the under-threat Pool and Track facilityLocal Liberal Democrats have confirmed their opposition to plans to close the Pool and Track in order to fund the long-awaited Arcade development before a consultation on the area has been completed.

A new report, which will go to Cabinet on the 15th September, asks senior councillors to agree to authorise officers to find a developer for a “mixed use scheme” on the vacant Arcade site, using £10million from the disposal of the Pool and Track, plus an option of Council borrowing, for a replacement facility on the site at the top of Walthamstow High Street.

And despite forcing last-minute changes to the report – which had already been published for consideration by the Council’s Scrutiny panel – Local Lib Dem Leader Cllr John Macklin has again expressed his concerns that the plans for the Arcade site will have serious knock on effects for a series of redevelopment projects in the area that are not sufficiently covered in the plans.

In March this year Liberal Democrat cabinet members voted against an earlier report laying the groundwork for the plan, with Cllr Macklin telling a cabinet meeting that the Council had  “a history of knocking things down and leaving them derelict and I am worried about swapping one piece of derelict land in Walthamstow for another near the town hall”.

Outlining his concerns, Cllr Macklin claimed that the report would have serious knock-on effects both for the future of the Pool and Track facility and the planning application recently submitted for development of the former EMD cinema.  Cllr Macklin added that, despite last-ditch efforts within the Town Hall to urge Labour cabinet members to postpone the plans, the report will go forward.

Cllr Macklin said:

“I just cannot see the logic in bringing these proposals forward at this time.

“The report regarding the future of the Pool and Track site has not even been completed and an outstanding planning application for the former EMD is yet to be heard.  The approval we are being asked to give in this report will obviously have massive implications for both these developments.

“First and foremost, as a Chapel End ward councillor I am really unhappy with the lack of clear proposals for the area behind the Town hall, including the Pool and Track, the allotments and the playing fields.

“It seems obvious to me that any decision to shut any of the Pool and Track facilities as part of the Arcade development should only be taken when we know what alternatives are being proposed for the Pool and Track site.  I have already met with allotment holders and other site users who are really worried about development on the site. 

“What effects will the closure of the leisure centre have on the athletics track?  The plans for that area currently laid out in the report seem almost laughably vague”.

The report suggests that the land “could become more fully utilised and provide an important resource for residents, and provide a wide range of facilities”.  It also claims that the decision whether to agree to the funding of a leisure centre on the Arcade may be influential to the likelihood of a new cinema being built on the site, a proposal that could have an impact on the outstanding planning application to renovate the former EMD cinema.

Cllr Macklin added:

“I would love to be reassured that the pieces of these various development plans fit together, and that this report isn’t simply part of a financial gamble to get a development of any sort built on the Arcade site, but that is increasingly what this looks like.  The goalposts appear to keep shifting and the reassurances we have repeatedly asked for have not been forthcoming.

“The development of these various sites needs to be part of a clear overall plan for our area, not simply piecemeal building projects that give the impression that the Council is simply chasing its own tail.”

What do you think of the plans to close the Pool and Track?  Do you think the Arcade proposals will have an impact on the EMD planning application?

Below is the original report published on the Council website.  Let us know your views!

Protect our listed buildings, say Lib Dems

Damage at the former EMDHigh Street Lib Dems have called on the Councils Chief Executive to do all in his power to protect the 107 listed buildings in Waltham Forest and in particular the Grade II listed former Granada cinema after reports, over the weekend, of yet more of the structure falling off.High St councillor James O’Rourke said:

“I have asked the Chief Executive to seriously consider invoking his powers under the Town & Country Planning Act 1990 to issue either an Urgent Works or Repair Notice to protect this historic building and passer-bys from being seriously injured.”

“Clearly, this buildings integrity is a major concern after a Health and Safety Prohibition Notice was issued, a couple of weeks ago, preventing anyone from entering the premises unless they are wearing full Personal Protective Equipment to protect them from exposure to asbestos. Whatever the future of this building may be its heritage needs to be protected.”

Last summer officials in the Department of Culture, Media and Sport drew up a Heritage Protection Bill to change how we list historic buildings and how we protect our heritage.

However, despite there being a very thin legislative programme last year, the Bill did not make it into the Queen’s Speech. Now Gordon Brown has listed his proposed bills for this year’s address by Her Majesty, and guess what? It is still not there.

“It seems Labour both nationally and locally are not particularly interested in the heritage of this country” added Cllr O’Rourke.