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WHITELADIES PICTURE HOUSE: Flats and gym plan is rejected

30 July 2012
The Post. Monday, July 30, 2012

PLANS to turn the former ABC cinema in Clifton into flats and a gym have been turned down.

London-based applicant Medinbrand applied to alter and extend the Grade II listed building in Whiteladies Road to build flats and turn the auditorium into a gym.

Last month the city council's central planning committee was split on whether to grant approval and deferred a decision until after a site visit by councillors.

After making the visit the committee met again and turned down the application - going against theadvice of council officers who had recommended it for approval.

The cinema has been unused for a decade and a campaign is under way to revive it as a cinema and arts space for the community.

The committee heard that more than 1,800 people had signed online petitions.

Others had submitted statements and spoke against the developer's application at the Council House.

The campaigners include Whiteladies Picture House Ltd and local businesses, which argue a cinema would be good for the community.

The Bristol and West General Equity Branch would like the venue to become a mixed-use community arts space.

The plans put forward by Medin- brand did include a pledge to restore and maintain many of the listed building's original features.

But after their site visit to the building, and after hearing around ten people speak against the application, and four people for, the committee unanimously rejected it.

It means that the cinema's future still lays uncertain.

However, a different bid by The Light Cinemas has been tabled to the owner David Lewin.

The firm is offering around £900,000 to develop the building into a three or four-screen cinema.

Mr Lewin had previously rejected the Light Cinemas' offer but the Post understands the bid is now back on the table.

A number of planning approvals for the building have been granted in the last ten years, including a restaurant, a shop and a health club, but none has ever come to fruition.

Now the cinema is dilapidated and run-down, many residents and nearby businesses are keen to see it restored to its former glory.

Hattie Appleby, who has been campaigning for the building to reopen as a cinema, told the Post: "I am very pleased that the latest application for flats and a gym was turned down. We don't need more flats in Clifton, especially in such a historic building.

"It was a triumph for all of us who want it returned to a cinema.

"It was a very clear message from councillors, who seemed shocked after their site visit at what sort of state it was in."

The cinema, which opened in 1921, has lain derelict for the last ten years after showing its last film in 2001.

It was previously owned by Odeon, which ran it as a three-screen cinema before selling it in November 2001 – almost 80 years after it opened.

But when it was sold, Odeon put a covenant on the building stating it could never be used as a cinema or for theatrical purposes.

The group campaigning for it to be a cinema again have previously had the covenant waived by Odeon bosses, who were persuaded that their plans were not a threat to Odeon's other businessinterests in the city.

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