Get involved: Send pictures, video, news and views - text NEWS SHOPPER to 80360 or email us
Mayor outraged at cinema plan
FRUSTRATED Lewisham Mayor Steve Bullock says the "absurd" decision to deny the borough a multi-screen cinema "undermines local democracy".
The national planning authority has rejected the council's plan to build a multiplex at the derelict ABC cinema site, Bromley Road, Catford.
Instead it has given the go-ahead for a religious group to turn the building into a church leaving the borough without a mainstream cinema.
After seeking legal advice the mayor admits he is powerless to challenge the decision, made by the Planning Inspectorate.
Mr Bullock told News Shopper this leaves him "immensely frustrated".
He said: "The Planning Inspectorate has slammed the door on the possibility of having a cinema at this site and I don't understand why.
"This decision has been taken by an unaccountable, unelected inspectorate and undermines local democracy.
"It flies in the face of the opinion of local people and the council."
Site owner the Universal Church of the Kingdom of God (UCKG) now plans to convert the building into a public worship centre.
This proposal previously rejected by council planning chiefs was upheld, after the inspectorate heard evidence from both sides during a four-day public inquiry last month.
Lewisham has been without a cinema since the closure of the Catford ABC in January 2002.
The council had backed a bid by Movieshack to develop a multi-screen cinema at the site but this was refused by the inspectorate.
Mr Bullock hopes a new mulitplex can be included within the forthcoming multi-millon pound transformation of Lewisham town centre.
However he admits any cinema at this site is "several years away".
The UCKG says it wants to accommodate a community centre and a small arthouse-style cinema on the floor above the church.
UCKG head of property Pastor Paul Hill said: "We have worked hard for this consent and are very happy with the outcome of the appeal."