Lights, camera, action as Walthamstow cinema redevelopment gets the go ahead

The redevelopment of the former EMD cinema on Hoe Street in Walthamstow was granted unanimous planning permission at a virtual meeting last night.

Waltham Forest Council plans to spend a total of £25 million transforming the disused Grade II-listed cinema into a theatre and entertainment venue.

Three neighbouring residents spoke about how their properties would be overshadowed by the new building, which will be five metres taller due to the addition of a rigging system for the stage.

Resident David White said he and his neighbours would “miss the morning sunlight keenly” and were “disappointed with the council’s process”, having found it difficult to navigate the website and the planning documents.

He said: “We really want to be able to support the plans, I have campaigned for this since 2010, I want this building to be brought back into life.

“But the current back of house extension is a great detriment to the home life of the building’s immediate neighbours.

“I still believe that you can improve the plans and make this a building we will all welcome wholeheartedly.”

Applicant Michael Rush insisted the added height was vital to make the theatre commercially viable by allowing it to host “mid-scale touring productions” like pantomimes, which have “very broad appeal and the capacity to attract up to 60,000 people”.

The ability to quickly alter the stage through the rigging system will also, he said, make it “possible to programme community events on the same days as public performances”.

He added: “It future-proofs the council’s investment and provides flexibility for its future use as a theatre. Without the [rigging system], Soho Theatre’s business case would be severely compromised.”

Cllr Alan Siggers (Con, Valley), who ultimately voted for the proposal, said the council was “affecting people’s lives by doing this and not in a good way”.

He added: “I wish we could do this type of thing and actually follow our policies and not affect anybody.”

Cllr Marie Pye (Lab, Leytonstone) praised the development for a variety of measures to make it more inclusive, which include 10 wheelchair-accessible seats.

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Victoria Munro

Local Democracy Reporter