Is Empire Back in The Picture?
Uncertainty and cynicism over the company's latest move
There's been yet another twist in the never ending saga of Ealing's cinema redevelopment.
Last week Ealing Council revealed it was applying to the Secretary of State for a Compulsory Purchase Order of the site.
They want to press ahead with the ambitious Land Securities project - of which the cinema would be a part.
The legal process could take up to a year and it would be the Secretary of State who would make the final decision. Land Securities can't embark on any work until the CPO is approved.
At the same time as the CPO process was announced workers appeared at the New Broadway site - suggesting that Empire is back and ready to finish the job it started in 2008.
The company began demolition work for the cinema redevelopment six years ago but left it in a derelict state after getting into financial problems.
Now, the news is that Empire have managed to sort out their debt and have regained control of their Ealing land. The planning permission still applies and they could therefore restart their building operations which began (with piling work) in 2012 - with a view to implementing the original (2008) scheme of a 17 screen complex.
Photographer and freelance journalist, Jamie Gould, visited the site (23/7) and spoke to workmen. He says : '' I asked them what was going on and they said that they are rebuilding the cinema. They couldn't say how long it would take but they did say it is a big project and will take quite a while.''
However the Lib Dem Councillor and Prospective Parliamentary Candidate for Ealing Central and Acton, Jon Ball, remains cynical, he thinks this may be yet another ploy by Empire.
He says: '' The best hope for a cinema on the site is the Land Securities scheme. I'm very glad Land Securities outlined plans for a 1000 seat cinema as I was initially concerned that it may be too small. I think this latest news regarding Empire is probably cynical manoeuvering by the company to try and extract the most money from the CPO.''
But Robert Gurd, Chairman of Ealing Civic Society says if Empire were to really be serious and get on with it Ealing could have a cinema much sooner.
He says: '' We can well understand why the Council has embarked upon the CPO process given the long delays in resolving the longstanding problems with the cinema site.
''But it may have been complicated as a result of Empire regaining control of their site and restarting work. Both Empire's and Land Securities' proposals have pros and cons but if Empire completed building work as originally scheduled this could possibly result in Ealing regaining a cinema earlier than envisaged under Land Securities' scheme.'
Empire have not responded to emails or phone calls form Ealing Today and there is no new statement available from them about their intentions.
Their last comment was on their website in 2012 when they said they were ''
fully committed to building a first class cinema for the residents of Ealing and will continue to expedite the necessary and appropriate steps towards optimal regeneration of the existing site''.
Ealing Council Leader, Julian Bell said:
“The Empire site is as derelict now as it was in 2008 when the cinema was demolished regardless of any minor work to paint the hoardings around it. The people of Ealing have been waiting a long time for a cinema. Land Securities’ cultural quarter development, which was granted planning consent last year, will offer a cinema as part of a wider regeneration, with new shops, restaurants and public space while opening up a key quarter of the town centre, with new connections between the Broadway, Bond Street and Walpole Park.
“The council will continue to pursue the CPO to deliver a new cinema and cultural quarter on the former cinema and other adjacent sites and would urge Empire to sell the site to our CPO partner. Our partner Land Securities has been in ongoing negotiations to acquire this site but clearly if a deal cannot be reached the council is prepared to use its CPO powers to acquire the land to ensure the scheme and the great benefit it will bring to our town centre is delivered. ”
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23rd July 2014