Councillors fail to agree over future of former ABC cinema
THE future of the old ABC cinema on Whiteladies Road is still up in the air after city councillors failed to agree on the latest plan to redevelop it.
After heated representations last night for and against an application to convert the Grade II listed building into five flats and a gym, the central planning committee was split on whether to grant approval and deferred their decision until next month, following a site visit.
The committee normally has seven members. But with two absences and Clifton East Liberal Democrat ward councillor Christian Martin speaking against the application on behalf of his ward residents, there were only four councillors left by the time it came to a vote.
Chris Davies (Lib Dem, Knowle) and Derek Pickup (Lab, Hartcliffe) both indicated they were against the plan. Colin Smith (Lab, Bedminster) unsuccessfully moved to approve the application and committee chairman Alex Woodman (Lib Dem, Cabot), said he was "torn".
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The cinema has been unused for a decade. London-based applicant Medinbrand applied to alter and extend the building for flats, and turn the auditorium into a gym.
However, their proposal includes a pledge to restore and maintain many of the listed building's original features. They do not need permission for the gym, as it is allowed under the existing permission for the cinema.
The Light Cinemas has tabled an offer of about £900,000 to develop the building into a three or four-screen cinema, but the owners rejected it.
The committee heard that more than 1,800 people have signed online petitions calling for the building to become a cinema once more. Scores more submitted statements and spoke against the application at the Council House.
Campaigners including Whiteladies Picture House Ltd and local businesses argue a cinema would be good for the community. The Bristol and West General Equity Branch would like it to become a mixed-use community arts space.
A number of planning approvals for the building have been granted in the last ten years, including a restaurant, a shop and a health club, but none came to fruition. The application is due to be heard again on July 25.