Planning inquiry to decide fate of historic cinema

Protesters outside the former cinema
Image caption Campaigners want the building, which has been empty since 2003, to be restored

A planning inquiry is to begin into whether a former east London cinema should be allowed to become a church.

The Universal Church of the Kingdom of God (UCKG) wants to transform the former EMD cinema in Walthamstow into a place of worship.

It says it will still be used in part as a multi-screen cinema.

Waltham Forest Council rejected the planning application in September and the applicant lodged an appeal with the Secretary of State.

'Critical importance'

A planning application for the cinema - once frequented by director Alfred Hitchcock - was also turned down in 2011.

The public inquiry, heard by a government inspector, starting on Thursday, is scheduled to conclude on 19 December.

UCKG, a Brazilian evangelical church, said it wanted the venue to include a training centre, children's area, book shop, cafe and two flats including pastor's accommodation.

Image caption The Grade II listed building opened as The Granada cinema in 1930

Campaigners want the building restored to a functioning cinema.

Bill Hodgson of the McGuffin Film Society, which has campaigned against the plans, said: "The EMD is not just an irreplaceable local venue but a listed building of national significance, so we are pleased that this case will now finally be determined at national level."

He said the outcome would be of "critical importance" to the development of Walthamstow and vital to its regeneration.

The Grade II* listed building opened as The Granada in 1930. The building dates back to 1887. As a venue it hosted concerts by the Rolling Stones and The Beatles.

UCKG bought the cinema in 2003, but it has remained empty since the church's first application to convert the building was rejected.

UCKG Help Centre was registered as a charity in 1995 and has 14 centres in London and the South East.

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