Church makes its second bid for ex-cinema

News Shopper (UK)/April 28, 2004
By Adrian Kwintner

Campaigners are vowing to fight a church's second application to take over a former cinema.

The Universal Church of the Kingdom of God (UCKG) plans to turn the ABC Cinema building, in Bromley Road, Catford, into a worship and conference centre.

This is the second planning application for the dilapidated site by the group, which rose to prominence after a pastor reportedly told the aunt of abused Victoria Climbie the child had spiritual problems.

Opponents, who saw Lewisham Council throw out the UCKG's first proposals last year after deciding the building should be retained for a wider leisure use, are now pledging to fight the latest plans.

These involve keeping the first floor auditorium for a cinema or other leisure use.

But Lib Dem councillor Carl Kisicki, who represents Whitefoot, says it is unlikely a cinema operator would be interested in running a single screen.

He added: "One of the borough's most prominent buildings is slowly rotting away and becoming an eyesore.

"Lewisham can't claim the borough is one of the best places to live, work and play if it doesn't have a full-time cinema."

Other residents agree. Suzanne Harris, 82, of Sangley Road, Catford, said: "We have plenty of places of worship in the borough. But we have no cinema. Many people have to take a bus to Bromley or into London to see a film but that can be inconvenient and expensive."

Other opponents have said the UCKG is a sinister cult whose founder has been investigated for both tax fraud and links with the cocaine industry.

Honorary secretary of the Lewisham Humanist Group Denis Cobell said: "The UCKG is a dangerous cult which seems to have ideas about prayers for the delivery of people from evil spirits when they actually need medical care."

The UCKG says its proposals, which also include counselling services, a library and creche, follow requests from its members who live in the area.

A spokesman added: "The HelpCentre aims to offer a range of services to benefit the local community, including youth activities, food and clothes aid campaigns, support for the elderly and marriage seminars."

Note: The Universal Church Kingdom of God ultimately did renovate and now occupies the former ABC cinema in Catford, despite earlier controversy surrounding this project.

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