|Council Buy YMCA Site in Apparent Bid To Help Cinema Development - update|
Council Leader Julian Bell explains why
Ealing Council has paid £1.7m for the YMCA building on Bond Street in an apparent effort to unlock the stalled Empire Cinema deal.
There have been growing fears over plans for the site opposite the Town Hall which has been left a derelict eyesore for over two years and the Council has backed the huge public campaign to get building work underway.
Now it's been revealed that at a Cabinet meeting in January, Ealing's Director of Property and Regeneration, Brendon Walsh, was given delegated authority to purchase 14 Bond Street, Ealing, for regeneration purposes, using the Strategic Land and Buildings Fund.
The property was bought in February on behalf of the Council by Bohola Contracting Ltd.
In a letter to Brendon Walsh, Bohola said the opportunity of bringing both the Bond St property and the cinema site together would offer the chance for a revised scheme involving residential parts 'which most importantly will significantly improve the realty of a prime cinema complex being delivered in Ealing.'
Liberal Democrat Regeneration spokesman Jon Ball says the Council is taking risks which he believes will ultimately benefit private companies. He says:
'' I am very keen that Empire rebuild the Cinema as quickly as possible. It is appalling that a town with Ealing's film heritage continues to not have a cinema in the town centre. There is a risk that coming up with a new combined scheme to also make use of the YMCA site will delay this still further.''
Council Leader, Councillor Julian Bell, said:
"This is a key town centre site which has been boarded up for months. The council bought the site to improve access between Bond Street and the sites further along the Uxbridge Road, including the cinema site.
''In the short term the council can use the site of the former YMCA as an active shop front rather than a boarded up eyesore in the town centre and plans are already being drawn up for this to happen."
"The site acquisition could prove to be crucial in unlocking the Empire Cinema site as it increases the development potential. This sort of development was envisaged in a masterplanning exercise that the Council commissioned from Tibbalds in 2008"
Empire's Operations Director, Paul Baxter, told EalingToday.co.uk that the Bond Street deal had 'absolutely nothing' to do with them and 'will not impact' on their plans.
We asked when the building work for the cinema was due to start, Mr Baxter has now replied :
' There is no change to my previous statement in that I cannot give you a start date for works at this time.'
15 March 2011