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Unhappy ending for us can be good for some developers

02 March, 2017

The old Pizza Express building at the corner of Prince of Wales Road and Kentish Town Road

THE expectation of a new, independent cinema for Kentish Town appears to have been dashed by a developer’s surprise announcement.

For two years the former North London Polytechnic and Pizza Express building – an NW5 landmark – has been surrounded by scaffolding. The nearby Castle pub has also been wrapped up in scaffold­ing for years because of a not too dissimilar planning dispute.

Too often does Camden’s planning system allow developers to promise the earth only to delay and later throw their hands up in anguish, claiming their original plan is now unviable.

There is no doubt that the concept of a community cinema is a popular one – popular enough to allay objections during the committee stages. The same has been promised for the former Marine Ices building in Chalk Farm – another project that appears to be delayed.

But box offices cost money to run. There are staff, licences. Much equipment to buy and maintain. Marketing and other expenses. The industry is threatened by the rise of home view, on demand set ups. A full analysis of whether a single screen cinema was feasible, finan­cially, in such a building should surely have been presented to the council for scrutiny before the project was approved. Time will tell whether the cinema promise – which remains a condition of the 12 flats being built above – is ever fulfilled.

But too often, in situations like these, the Town Hall opens itself up to ransom. Faced with a new owner offering to bring a speedy end to an impasse, even at the expense of its community obligations, the council could end up surrendering.

Is a “permissive” culture taking hold at the planning department?

Vote bounds

DOES Chris Percy, husband of Hampstead and Kilburn MP Tulip Siddiq, have a point when it comes to the Boundary Commission review?

The changes, if approved, would almost certainly unseat his wife from Parliament at the next election. But is the review based on flawed figures? The redrawing of boundaries aims to create an even number of people living in each constituency.

Thousands of voters may have registered to vote in Camden in the build-up to last year’s EU referendum.

Across the country, the boost to the electoral roll could exceed two million people. Surely, these new estimates should be taken into account when the new maps are drawn? If they are not, an injustice may well have been served and the matter would have to be decided by a High Court judge.

Let’s hope the Boundary Commission sees sense and takes another look.

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