Royal Borough of Kensington & Chelsea council’s decision to approve replacement for Kensington Odeon with a 63% smaller cinema is deservedly condemned as a “box office balls-up”
The much-loved Odeon Kensington cinema closed its box office on the 11th September 2015 in spite of a campaign to save it backed by amongst others Richard Curtis, John Hurt and Prince Michael of Kent.
Bar its original neo-classical façade, built in 1926, the unlisted building was subsequently demolished and with its destruction went a cinema premises that originally had a seating capacity of 2,370 in stalls and circle levels according to the Cinema Treasures website.
Now, five years later, after round after round of battle between developers keen to construct housing there and activists keen to reinstate the cinema, the Royal Borough of Kensington & Chelsea planning committee have finally approved a new set of revised plans for the site.
The new approved £400 million scheme (replacing a previous consent granted in 2016) gives Lodha Properties permission to build a six-screen cinema with just 887 seats as well as 67,000 square foot of commercial space. In addition, the scheme will include 71 private residences and 35 ‘affordable’ homes whilst the developer is also expected to contribute £1.4 million towards affordable homes off-site.
Whilst the new Tory MP for Kensington Felicity Buchan predictably took to Twitter to claim this Conservative led council decision “very good news for Kensington High Street,” others were less pleased with the outcome. Referencing the decision as “undermining the character of our community,” the crusading From The Hornets Nest blog condemned the development as adding “yet more empty luxury flats to an already overcrowded Kensington market place.”
Illustrative of the council’s “unhealthy developer alliances and disastrous decisions” according to one commentator, the new scheme unsurprisingly contains fewer social housing units and a cinema reduced in size by 1,483 seats. This, indeed, is not a community success but what another termed “a tragedy.”
Of the decision Matthew Steeples, editor-in-chief of The Steeple Times added: “Here, yet again, is illustration of the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea council putting profit before people and cash before culture. The cinema component of this scheme is purely a token sop to attempt to attempt to silence critics of this out-of-touch council’s latest box office balls-up.”