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Odeon Kensington redevelopment: Historic England responds to campaigners argument to save cinema

The public body has defended its decision not to consider listing the 1926 Art Deco building

Historic English (HE) has defended its decision not to reconsider the Kensington Odeon for listing.

Original architecture from the historic building was uncovered during the process of its demolition, giving hope to those fighting for the future of the building that it could be saved.

A five-year Certificate of Immunity (CoI) preventing the building from being listed was issued by Secretary of State for Culture Media and Sport in March 2013 on the advice of HE.

The decision was based on the claim the original features of the 1926 Art Deco building had been lost.

The recent discovery of key features such as plaster details, the vaulted ceiling, dress circle, Proscenium arch with its masks and details, Tea Rooms and reception area, led to campaigners calling for Historic England to reconisder.

Guy Oliver, from campaign group the Friends of the Kensington Odeon, fighting for the building, said at the time of the new discovery: “This should be a game changer.

An artist's impression of the proposed Picturehouse Cinema

“These are the details we were told were missing and why it couldn’t be listed in the first place.

“This should change that decision.”

He wrote to HE head Duncan Wilson, but was later told that as a CoI was in place listing could not be considered, a decision Mr Wilson labelled as “completely bonkers” .

A spokesman for HE said during an inspection of the site in 2007 and 2013 it acknowledged the cinema’s striking façade and some decorative internal features, notably the marble-clad staircases.

The spokesman continued: “We accepted that more decorative finishes may be concealed by modern cladding, but the original plan and principal spaces have been radically altered, and the interior overall bears very little resemblance to its original form.

“No significant new information was presented in 2013 that caused us to reconsider our recommendation.

“A Certificate of Immunity from Listing for Kensington Odeon was issued by the Secretary of State for Culture Media and Sport in September 2013, on advice from Historic England. It stays in force until September 2018.

“Historic England (formerly English Heritage) also assessed this building for listing in 1988 and 2006 recommending that it should not be listed.

“Historic England is not in a position to give further advice on listing the Kensington Odeon to the Secretary of State until the current Certificate lapses in September 2018.”

The real estate investment and advisory company Delancey is developing the cinema site.

Under plans for the building which have been given approval, a new seven-screen cinema will be built.

The development, which would see the parts of the Odeon’s facade retained, would include luxury homes, a cafe, bar and restaurant.

The main auditorium showing a previously hidden view to the stage and proscenium arch, previously thought to be lost

A spokesman for Minerva, which is owned by Delancey, said: “We are working with Museum of London Archaeology to record and analyse any additional original features uncovered during the works.

“Unfortunately, MOLA have advised us that nearly every original feature uncovered has been damaged during renovations in the 1970s and 1990s.

Guy Oliver (left), founder of Friends of the Kensington Odeon and Labour K&C councillor Emma Dent-Coad (far right)

The Friends want to buy the property and build an arts centre called The Hitchcock, Kensington, after the legendary Psycho director who used the cinema.

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