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Thursday, 6 September 2012

URGENT - Important new Information on the Kensington Odeon

Dear Councillors,

This could be one of the most important emails that you receive whilst in office for Kensington and Chelsea residents.

On Thursday night you have a vital role to play for our RBKC community, one of its major landmarks and places for community fellowship since 1926, the Odeon Kensington is to be considered for demolition and redevelopment.  Also, this may impact as well  for  Kensington High Street, central to our borough, and even London life.
The case for demolishing the Odeon and replacing it with another development requires your full consideration and you will need to examine your conscience carefully when you vote 'for' or 'against' the application for extra time. Pages of information could be provided  but I have condensed as best I can for just 5 minutes of your time. 
(The developers can pay for experts and say what they like, often highly creative, and after I have spoken I am sure I will want to stand up and speak in defence of the staus quo, although this is not allowed.)
Much has changed with the economy and global outlook and safety since back in 2007.
Surprisingly as a housing project this proposal is convincing: what is concerning is the poor cinema provision, safety and the killing of the trees.
Kensington High Street is in decline with competition from Westfield and Duke of York Square, King's Road stripping custom. This proposal removes one of the main 'Attractants' for non-locals to visit this area and shop and eat out. Going to the Odeon, Kensington is viewed as a posh night out or daytime outing in an elegant and spacious building in safe neighbourhood and millions have come over the years and endorsed this community benefit.
THE KENSINGTON CINEMA NEEDS TO BE FANTASTIC TO ATTRACT PEOPLE and this proposal falls short as the proposal is not  'equivalent' or better 'standard' than the existing. Down in the windowless bowels of a 17 metre pit under a car park  - how is that an attractive place to be, equivalent or better? What 'merit' does the plan have other than to create the most sellable units possible for a developer?
Emotional, but close to 20,000 people who signed the Downing street petition want the Odeon saved - 'Save the Odeon' thousands of signatures..ask your conscience. 
Can you vote for that option - a cinema dungeon of poured concrete to replace an elegant and proven local institution?
The public desire is to 'Save the Odeon' and the 'Trees'. 
it is murderous to remove the 21 metre tall trees that are "two of the finer trees in the borough" just to satisfy a developers greed for more units to sell to the few.
The site has six floors above ground - surely room to accommodate flats, a cinema and to keep the trees?
Do you really want to be the one who is recorded as voting to have the huge Odeon trees felled? It should be noted that basements have been turned down on appeal because of the importance of trees.
Trees have gone from the Commonwealth Institute, tower blocks are coming. Do you really desire to see the Odeon fall victim to this change of focus to 'what a developer wants now' in a conservation area by Holland Park? Your conscience should tell you to vote for what benefits the community in the long term - keeping the trees and a 'proper landmark cinema' with a large auditoria with a bigger screen than Leicester Square. Obviously the stars come for Premieres, stars such as Johnny Depp and Madonna, even Prince William and Kate are believed to have sneaked in the other week. The cinema in its current form is of International Importance - would it be in the new format?
Do you want to vote for 'unchartered territory' ie. a sub, sub, sub, sub, basement cinema.
Down, down, down, down - what if there was a fire? Or a random terrorist or human panic event like in the Colorado cinema shooting.
Would you like to pass down a darkened corridor to find one of the convoluted ways up multiple flights of turning stairs (around 70 steps up in the staircases alone) to reach the full foyer and ultimately...daylight? In the half darkness, with smoke and noises of screaming panic? The disabled and even slightly infirm will still be waiting for the firemen,when they arrive on the scene, to take them up in 2 lifts which are simultaneously being used to bring firefighting equipment down? 
Oh, did I mention "the minimum of three means of escape from Cinema Level up to Kensington High Street" which is point 5.15 in the planning report, just 3 means of escape from 17metres down? Can you seriously vote in favour of this this basement cinema location in the light of all the changes to the govenment advice on Fire since 2007 (policies in more detail on the addendum below) and have these been fully considered?
If a tragedy happened, or even a disturbing stampede, in this groundbreaking new concept for London - 'the five floors below cinema' (- could you sleep at night? Do you want to vote to take the borough's main cinema into unchartered waters, deep down where the chance to escape is more of a chance, especially for the young and infirm, than leaving the existing 1926 cinema with '16' easy ground floor exits.
Watch the simwalk, simulated evacuation of a ground floor multiplex, detailed in the addendum below. Look at the enclosed attachments above:
1899 -classic Kensington customers
1499 -A buggy bottle neck trying to get up from a basement in the London aquarium without 'panic'.
1497- The impatient parents then taking the exit into their own hands by taking the escalator. Just a 'mild' basement panic event with no threat.
The developers describe 'a separate fire compartment for each screen' but Government safety Regulations for 2012 say compartments are OK but only if:
"the lowest floor in a building does not need to be constructed as a compartment floor".
see addendum for fuller details.
The 2007 proposal needs to be tested to fit the latest technical safety requirements up to 2012 as well as technological advances such as computer modelling of crowd exit behaviour. This is something the borough should look at for all its cinemas in the light of the fire at the Electric Cinema in nearby Portobello. Fires DO happen.
Think carefully before you vote - is it right for the conservation area to 'try' this on the suggestion two developers? Is is right to demolish this historic building? Once it is gone you can't bring it back or the space back into public recreational use. Cinema attendance  is increasing for not only film but live screening of sport such as tennis, the olympics, the proms and live theatre and opera. Does the proposal for development create an appealing enough arts venue down in the plot's bowels? Should it be our Councillors, in the respected RBKC, that pioneer approval for a 5 stories underground cinema in a concrete box? 
Can you live with voting for something that will kill two huge trees?
Could you sleep after your decision if there were a tragic incident down below?
Questioning and any questions are welcome at the meeting.

C.McLean - speaker at the Major Planning Meeting


  1. RIP our lovely cinema and trees. Planning Committee only understand greed and are ripping the soul out of our once great, but now totally rotten Borough.

  2. Trees be damned! They're in the way of money. Graceful birches and planes are being destroyed for Portacabins in the ghastly North where the flea-ridden residents don't know the difference between betula and botulism, so the chances of saving the Odeon beauties is zero. Unless there's a concerted and rigorous effort from cllrs.

    1. "the ghastly North where the flea-ridden residents don't know the difference between betula and botulism",

      Does the Hornet approve of this comment ?

    2. NO, the Dame thought it unpleasant and repulsive. But it will not be censored.

  3. The Councillors sitting on the Planning Committee last night were not fit for purpose.
    With the exception of the Chair,Terence Buxton, they came across as complete amateurs swimming well out of their depth.
    Seeing the Committee feebly asking questions about replacement trees was truly pathetic while selling the Borough's heritage to the highest bidder.
    Lucky Mr Bore was there to ensure there was no dissent when the Councillors suddenly woke up to what they were being asked to do.
    Shame on them!


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