Bid to use Islington cinema site as a place of worship

The former Carlton Cinema

The former Carlton Cinema - Credit: Archant

One of Islington’s best known buildings which has stood derelict for years could soon be home to hundreds of worshippers.

The interior of the old cinema

The interior of the old cinema - Credit: Archant

A proposal to convert the former Carlton Cinema in Essex Road into a venue with at least 580 seats goes before an Islington Council planning committee tonight (Thursday).

The art deco style building’s current owners – evangelical group Resurrection Manifestations – want to build a stage, put in extra seats and hold prayer sessions until 10pm up to seven days a week.

David Gibson, chairman of the Islington Society, said: “I don’t know anything about the Resurrection Manifestations so I couldn’t possible comment on them, but I do know buildings are best when they are in use, because essential maintenance gets done.

“It’s such a lovely building, both inside and out, that they need to be sympathetic with how they use it. But, as long as they do that, it’s better that it’s open.”

Apart from being used by squatters, the Grade II* listed building has been empty since 2007 when it closed as a bingo hall.

Resurrection Manifestations, which is based in Amhurst park, Stamford Hill, bought the building in 2007 for around £5milllion to turn it into a “multi-million pound sterling church” according to its website.

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But the scheme has been beset by problems. The group said refurbishing the building will cost millions of pounds and it must build a two storey extension to the roof for private flats to fund the development.

The council and planning inspector threw its application out, so now the group is settling for a temporary church while it gathers the cash for a proper re-fit.

In 2010, the Gazette reported how the group was accused of illegally evicting a group of squatters from the building armed with hammers – which it denied – and some people in the area are dubious about the new congregation.

Lynn Alexander, who runs nearby Haggle Vinyl, said: “I remember going past after they bought the building, there were 20 of them, all dressed in white, cleaning a tiny yard.

“It felt quite intimidating, like a show of strength.

“I hope they aren’t some cult – the last thing I want is some religious sect across the road from me. Absolutely not. And if they do get hundreds of people coming to the church, they’d best not take up all the parking spaces.”

No one from Resurrection Manifestations was available for comment.