A demolition team has set up its office at the Kensington Odeon after hopes of saving the historic cinema were dealt a severe blow.
Kensington and Chelsea Council this week (October 3) rejected a nomination to list the famous cinema, which boasted Alfred Hitchcock and Princess Diana as regular customers, as an Asset of Community Value (ACV).
It means time is running out to save the 1926 Art Deco building.
Guy Oliver, founder of Friends of Kensington Odeon, said: “ The demolition contractors are setting up their office on site at the moment and the community are now at the 11th hour. The demolition could start at any moment.
“It all rests on if we can get someone to buy the site. We’re trying to convince a number of privately wealthy individuals.”
Campaigner Paul Wiffen lets rip over plans to knock down the Kensington Odeon
Developers Minerva-Delancey say they will upgrade the cinema facilities by “delivering a new Picturehouse Cinema with seven state-of-the-art screens, restoring the building’s historic façade and providing a vibrant café, bar and restaurant”.
While these proposals would see part of the façade retained, interior gems such as the marble staircase and a mosaic floor in the foyer would be lost.
The Friends of Kensington Odeon want to restore the cinema and provide a multi-purpose arts centre - to be known as The Hitchcock, Kensington - and had been in talks with three billionaire philanthropists who support their plans.
A petition with more than 25,000 names was handed to the government last year signed by people opposing the demolition of the High Street cinema. Names on it included to A-list celebrities guitar legends Jimmy Page and Brian May, actors Sir Ian McKellen, Kristin Scott-Thomas and Benedict Cumberbatch , who would regularly visit the cinema as a child.
Mr Oliver had previously told getwestlondon that he was confident of attaining the ACV as the group had provided the council with everything required.
But following the decision he said: “Kensington and Chelsea Council has always been a council which has sided with developers over the community.
“This council is particularly pro-development and is ignoring 28,000 peoples’ wishes, and these are the people they’re supposed to represent.”
But a council spokesperson said: “One of the key requirements [to ACV] is that there should be a realistic possibility that the building can continue in social use in the next five years.
“We know the owners have entered into a contract with a firm to demolish a very substantial part of the building and this work is due to finish by next summer.
“Under these circumstances, it is unrealistic to think the building can continue to serve a social function and therefore cannot be listed as an ACV.”
He added that even if the nomination had been successful the ownership of the building would remain with the developers who have a valid planning application.