Cinema and workspace coming to Loughton

A new cinema which doubles as office space will be opened on Loughton High Road, despite fears it could cause a nuisance for neighbours.

The current HSBC building will be converted into a hybrid workspace in the day and a 40-seat cinema in the evenings and weekends, and was granted permission to show films and sell alcohol by Epping Forest District Council at a meeting today (December 7).

Applicants Hunter Biscuit & Wolf Ltd. say the building will be used as a quiet and professional workspace and will give people an opportunity to “escape” their homes whilst occasionally having a drink over a business lunch or a champagne breakfast to celebrate a deal.

Originally intended to open at 8am, councillors pushed back the licensing hours so that the venue will be able to sell alcohol between 10.30am and 11pm in an attempt to prevent disruption for neighbours.

Director Guy Wilson said at the meeting they are working with external companies to ensure the screening room, open to the public in the evening when footfall from the office space is expected to decrease, is properly soundproofed.

He said: “What we want to set up in 191 High Road is basically a professional environment where people can, who are working from home, can escape for a few hours during the day, and they can either escape their house and have sort of a more quiet moment, or somewhere they can take clients or guests to discuss business, which means they don’t have to discuss it in their home.”

But the application received objections from residents and Loughton Town Council, who said the proposed licensing hours are too long and would cause disruption for people living in nearby properties.

One neighbour wrote: “From my apartment, I can hear the conversations of people outside and previously I have heard noises from there; so, to have a loud cinema screen next door will create a lot of noise, and decrease my sense of peace and comfort.

“Not only this, but I would assume that people will go outside to smoke, and this travels up into my apartment, even with the doors and windows closed.”

The town council also said in their objection that when considering an earlier planning application for change of use of the property, committee members expressed concern the premises should not be used as a private drinking club.

Mr Wilson denied this would be the case at the meeting.

While the cinema will be open for all, the workspace will operate on a members-only basis.

The applicants said at the meeting they would only offer a modest membership fee to prevent the space from being exclusive, and that membership will allow them to better control the environment.

Film showings will start at 7.30pm on weekdays, but earlier if the space is not being used for work.

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Charlie Ridler

Local Democracy Reporter