Universal Church of the Kingdom of God defiant over threat of forced EMD cinema sale by Waltham Forest Council and Waltham Forest Cinema Trust

Guardian, UK/December 6, 2012

A religious group remains defiant over the possibility it could be forced to sell an historic former cinema it wants to turn into a church.

The Universal Church for the Kingdom of God (UCKG) said its plans are superior to an alternative proposal by Waltham Forest Cinema Trust, which hopes to take over the EMD building in Hoe Street, Walthamstow, and run it as a multi-purpose entertainment venue.

A public enquiry is currently considering the future of the grade-II listed building, after three planning UCKG planning applications, the latest of which included cinema provision, were rejected.

And last week leading councillors agreed to issue a compulsory purchase order (CPO) for the site if the inquiry did not find in the church's favour and it subsequently refused to negotiate on a sale.

In a statement UCKG said: "We don't yet have any details on Waltham Forest Council's plan for compulsory purchase of the former Granada cinema.

"However, we do have exciting plans for state-of-the-art cinema within our overall proposals for the future of the building, which amount to a far better option than anything proposed by the trust."

The CPO could force the church to sell the building at market value, which the trust estimates at £1 million, and the council has said its support for an alternative proposal is dependent on it being self-financing.

The trust has the support of some influential people, including Mick Jagger and actor Paul McGann, while actress Sadie Frost has secured a private loan of up to £2 million to finance its cinema plans.

It is also backed by Soho Theatre and Prince Charles Cinema in the West End.

Trust chairman Neil Gerrard welcomed the new financial backing.

He said: "It's very good news and it gives us the start needed to bring in more money. If we did get to the point that our bid is successful then we'd be looking for public fundraising too.

"We're prepared for whatever comes with the CPO."

Both the trust and the UCKG claim to have widespread local support. The appeal is expected to last another fortnight and a decision is due in March.

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