In January 2003 the cinema closed after it was sold to Universal Church of the Kingdom of God (UCKG). It occupies a site providing entertainment since the 1880s including Music Hall, cinema, variety and major concerts featuring the Beatles, the Rolling Stones and Chuck Berry amongst others: see Past. It has deep roots in the local community (see The People’s History) and is a Grade II* listed building. The change of use was opposed by many local people including the McGuffin Film Society which had run screenings there.
- January 2003
UCKG take over ownership of the cinema and close it after having had a planning application for a change of use to a church rejected by Waltham Forest Council.
- June 2003
The UCKG appeals against the council’s planning rejection and a public inquiry is held.
- October 2003
The issue is ultimately decided by then deputy PM, John Prescott, who backs the council’s decision and throws out UCKG’s appeal.
- May 2009
The cinema’s supporters compile the EMDdossier setting out the history of the building, the planning arguments, and statements from key supporters.
- August 2009
The UCKG submits another application which they claim meets some of the objections raised to the first. It includes some community space for commercial hire to counter the concern that change of use would effectively remove access for the wider public. The council tries for two years to contact the owners and discuss issues arising from the proposal but cannot get a reply.
- August 2010
Waltham Forest council commissions an independent consultant to report on the potential of the EMD as an entertainment venue. Locum Consulting’s feasibility report sets out a number of viable business options once the restoration work had been completed.
- November 2010
The owners are asked by the council to repair the building after a piece of render falls into the street. The building is on the English Heritage At Risk register where its condition is described as poor.
- January 2011
A petition is created on the Waltham Forest council website asking the planning department to oppose the application which collects 2,266 signatures.
- February 2011
An attempted rave forces entry into the building. Local people intervene and the rave is short-lived. However the open doors allow photos and video to emerge showing severe water damage from broken radiators, and a general state of neglect.
- March 2011
The Campaign writes to English Heritage asking them to use their legislative powers to help protect and maintain the building.
- March 2011
Stella Creasy, MP for Walthamstow asks a question in the House about ways to improve the safeguarding of listed buildings.
- March 2011
A list of urgent works is established between English Heritage and the UCKG.
- April 2011
In the Money section of Saturday’s Times Mark Bridges reports that the UCKG, as a registered charity, has received £8m from the taxpayer since 2003 by way of Gift Aid and that most of the Church’s income has been used to build a property portfolio now worth £33m.
- May 2011
The Waltham Forest Cinema Trust is launched with the aim of purchasing, restoring and re-opening the cinema.
- May 2011
The planning committee meets to decide the application. They reject it 7 – 0 explaining that it fails to comply with the Council’s planning polices, including regeneration objectives for the town centre.
- December 2011
The Church mounts another appeal. Thousands of local people and campaign supporters write to the planning inspectorate. Our planning objections summarises our points. An inquiry is scheduled for June 2012.
- May 2012
The Church cancels its appeal and the Public Inquiry scheduled to debate it in June 2012 is postponed as UCKG announces plans to submit a third set of plans.
- June 2012
The new plans feature six small screening rooms arranged around the periphery of the main auditorium. The campaign’s view of the plans is summarised here.
- September 2012 Waltham Forest Council reject UCKG’s latest plans at a packed planning committee meeting held at Walthamstow Assembly Hall. UCKG announce they will Appeal this decision, which is to be decided alongside the plans rejected by the council in May 2011.
- November 2012 A public Inquiry commences at Waltham Forest Town Hall and Walthamstow Assembly Hall, chaired by Paul Griffiths who is appointed by the Planning Inspectorate to hear all arguments and comments regarding the UCKG’s Appeal.
- December 2012 Waltham Forest Council agree in principal to a Compulsory Purchase of the EMD/Granada, should UCKG lose their Planning Appeal and then refuse to negotiate a sale of the building.
- May 2013 Eric Pickles MP, Secretary of State for Communities and Local Govt rejects both UCKG’s planning Appeals on the advice of the Planning Inspector’s lengthy report.
- September 2013 UCKG fail to challenge the Appeal decision in the High Court.
- June 2014 Waltham Forest Council announce cabinet members will vote on whether or not to proceed with a Compulsory Purchase of the cinema at a meeting on 15th July
- July 2014 A major milestone is reached as Waltham Forest Council unanimously approve funding to help Soho Theatre/Waltham Forest Cinema Trust buy the cinema by negotiated agreement with UCKG or a Compulsory Purchase.