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Shock as Squire and Partners' Odeon scheme refused

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The developer behind plans by Squires and Partners to redevelop Kensington High Street’s Odeon cinema has expressed amazement after councillors threw it out

A meeting of the council’s planning committee this week overturned a recommendation by officers to approve the scheme, which would have provided new cinema screens plus 63 homes.

A campaign to save the cinema was backed by actors John Hurt, Benedict Cumberbatch, Colin Baker and David Prowse, along with film director Richard Curtis.

A statement from developer Minerva said: ‘Having collaborated closely with the council and local residents to design the scheme over a period of nearly two years we had produced a considered redevelopment proposal that council officers were happy to write a strong officer recommendation for approval, together with support from the Greater London Authority as to design and development uses and no objection raised from English Heritage.’

The statement added that the scheme was in line with the council’s planning policy.

A more limited permission, also designed by Squires and Partners for Minerva, which allowed demolition and retention of the façade, was granted in 2008 (pictured below).

However, it did not include the surrounding sites and only included 40 homes.

Squire and Partners' previous scheme for the Odeon in Kensington High Street 2008

Squire and Partners’ previous scheme for the Odeon in Kensington High Street 2008

The council received 43 objections to the new application, including a number of petitions containing thousands of names.

A letter sent to the campaign on behalf of Prince and Princess Michael of Kent read: “Prince and Princess Michael continue to frequent the Kensington Odeon and are very much in favour of your efforts to once more save this historic building from demolition.”
The rejected scheme would have retained the façade of the original building but would have demolished the rest of it, along with an adjoining Post Office building.
The cinema was built in 1926 to designs by architects Julian Randolph Leathart and W.F. Granger.
It has not been listed, partly because the original art deco interior no longer remains intact, although The Cinema Theatre Association has in the past claimed that some of the original features may lie behind false walls and ceilings.
Michael Squire, partner at Squire and Partners, spoke to the meeting, claiming that the current Odeon was not sustainable due to a massive drop in visitor numbers.
However, the committee rejected the scheme by 11 votes to one.
Minerva said it would review the reasons for the refusal before deciding on its next steps.

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