Valentine’s Day deadline for views on Walthamstow outdoor cinema plans

People have until Valentine’s Day to give their views on plans to hold immersive film screenings at a sports ground throughout the summer.

Events company Secret Cinema was last month granted a licence for screenings at Low Hall Sports Ground in Walthamstow, almost daily from July 5 until September 12 this year, despite objections.

The company now needs planning permission to install 142 temporary structures, including a 16m screen, with work at the ground in South Access Road due to start in mid-June and last from 8am to 8pm for three weeks.

Residents have until February 14 to give their views on the application and can read the full planning application on the council’s website here: https://builtenvironment.walthamforest.gov.uk/planning/index.html?fa=getApplication&id=48792

The company plans to hold one outdoor screening every day of the week except Mondays, with tickets ranging from £49 to £89 and performances ending at 10.30pm.

At a licensing committee meeting on January 14, opponents of the scheme urged councillors to reject the application, arguing that preserving access to open space for the public was more important.

Objector Isla Johns said: “A large number of children would have their activity and exercise space removed for the entire school summer holiday and almost all warm weather weekends either side.

“There are certainly reasons to support events in green spaces but this application deprives the community during the day in order to serve its premium client base at night.”

John Mannion, from Coppermill Swifts FC, warned the placement of the site will make most, if not all, of the ground’s football pitches unusable.

Applicant Rob Haworth told the committee the company was still waiting to hear how many pitches it would displace and would find alternatives in the borough for those that were.

Responding to residents’ concerns, he said: “We completely understand we could be perceived as a big problem for the area over the summer and that’s the last thing we want.

“I’m not going to pretend there’s no impact from what we are proposing but I believe we can limit those impacts.”

The planning application submitted to the council provides more details about how the site will be constructed, with work expected to start on June 14.

The company estimates it will take “approximately three weeks” to build the temporary site and that there will be another week for rehearsals before the first screening on July 14.

The first set of screenings will end on August 1, followed by a four-day “changeover” and 10 days of preparation and rehearsals, before a new set of screenings starts on August 18.

The application states that “noisy” works, that can be heard outside the site, will last from 8am to 8pm, although “quiet” works may take place 24 hours a day.

The application adds: “Staff involved in these activities… will be made aware of the type of ‘common sense’ precautions they should be taking to minimise noise.”

The company’s application also includes a set of testimonials from previous performances, including the 2016 summer programme in Leyton Jubilee Park.

The council’s head of culture and visitor services at the time, Lorna Lee, described working with Secret Cinema as “a real pleasure”.

She said: “As well as being enjoyed by hundreds of local residents, the quality of the Secret Cinema brand attracted many new visitors to Waltham Forest, boosting the local economy and raising the profile of the borough.”

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Victoria Munro

Local Democracy Reporter