THE owners of Ealing’s demolished cinema have one week to start rebuilding it before the town hall begins forcing them to sell the land.
But the process of seizing control of the site will take at least 15 months and could last up to two years if Empire Cinemas decides to fight it.
Council leader Julian Bell said Empire’s chief executive Justin Ribbons has been in touch, but set the deadline as the end of the month because promises have been broken before.
He said: “Justin Ribbons, Empire’s chief executive, has been in contact twice in the past two months and given yet more promises, which is positive because at one point he said he wasn’t going to speak to us anymore. He said work would start by spring. We’ve interpreted spring as the end of May, to be generous, so we’re waiting to see if anything happens.
“I’m sceptical. I’m so fed up of broken promises, but I’m a football fan so there’s always a bit of hope in me. Hopefully the compulsory purchase order will focus minds and get Empire to move and either build it themselves or sell it to someone else.
“It’s so important to have a cinema in Ealing. I’m determined to get one – if necessary I’ll get out there and build it brick by brick myself.”
Work ground to a halt in 2008. Last year Mr Ribbons blamed delays on a row with the council over planning regulations, after Empire scaled up its plans from 16 to 20 screens to compete with Westfield.
The council ironed out the problems late last year, with Mr Ribbons promising to start work in the spring. The £25million complex would take more than a year to build.
If no action is taken before the end of the month, a formal letter will be sent to Mr Ribbons warning him of the council’s plans.
Proposals will then come before the council’s cabinet within the next two months for authorisation to be given to press ahead with the compulsory purchase.
Empire did not return the Gazette’s calls.