Local Liberal Democrat councillors have met for a second time with the UK’s largest independent cinema operators to discuss the historic former EMD building in Walthamstow – on the same day that the Council’s portfolio holder for regeneration appeared to dash resident’s hopes that the venue would ever be restored as a cinema.
Lyn Goleby, Managing Director of City Screen – the owner of Stratford’s popular Picture House cinema – met at Waltham Forest Town Hall with the borough’s Chief Executive Andrew Kilburn, Liberal Democrat group Leader John Macklin and High St councillor James O’Rourke to discuss previous Council-commissioned reports which made the business case for a 5-screen cinema on the EMD site.
The building is owned by the Universal Church of the Kingdom of God (UCKG), but recent comments from the UCKG have seemed to suggest that the Church would consider moving if an offer was made for the building.
Cllr O’Rourke said that the meeting with City Screen had been organised in order to ensure all parties could “hear another perspective” on claims that the site was not viable as a cinema.
However, just hours later Council portfolio holder Terry Wheeler appeared to strongly rule out any future for the building as a cinema. (Click here to read the Waltham Forest Guardian’s report on Cllr Wheeler’s comments)
Local Lib Dem leader Cllr John Macklin, who was in attendance at the meeting with City Screen, said:
“I have met with UCKG representatives and very much welcome the efforts they have made to begin engaging with residents and councillors. Of course I recognise the legal restrictions which are associated with planning law and respect the UCKG’s position as owners of the site.
“Yet it is completely wrong for the Council – which is led on this issue by Cllr Wheeler – to be seen to be so completely dismissive of the apparent strength of public opinion on this matter. It is the misinformation and manoeuvring that has taken place over a number of years that has fed such confusion and dismay amongst residents.
“Conflicting reports over the viability of the site as a cinema, false promises of Council action and meetings held behind closed doors have all led to an environment of distrust and anger.
“As I have said before, it is simply not good enough to appear to just tell Walthamstow residents what they want in their area.”