We have written before about the ongoing fight to save the former Crown cinema, latterly known as The Empire Music venue. A planning application has been submitted for the demolition of the existing building and the construction of a new student hall of residence. The Society has submitted an objection to this development and the details of our objection are set out below.
Coventry Society Response to Planning Application FUL/2020/2562
Thank you for the opportunity to comment on this application. The response below is submitted on behalf of the Coventry Society who object to the application.
- Historic Grounds
Firstly, we are opposed to the demolition of the existing, former Empire / Paris Cinema building on historic grounds.
In 1912, Mr. F. H. (Frankie) Turner commissioned J. H. Gilbert, an Earlsdon, Coventry architect to draw up plans for a 558 seat picture house theatre. It opened in September 1912 and was called ‘The Crown’ cinema. It had a large crown on top of the frontage.
In 1925 Victory Motion Pictures Limited took over ‘The Crown’. The chairman of the company was Oscar Deutsch. The success of this early venture led Deutsch to form his own Odeon Theatre circuit in the 1930s. This cinema was the first cinema that he ran and was the forerunner of the Odeon group.
‘The Crown’ cinema was temporarily closed in October 1940 due to air raid damage to the roof.
‘The Crown’ subsequently became ‘The Paris’ cinema which was opened on Saturday 1st March 1958 by the Lord Mayor of Coventry Alderman Mrs Pearl Hyde. The policy of the ‘Paris’ was to show continental films, hence its full name the ‘Paris Luxury Continental Cinema’.
The building featured an art deco interior and façade, although many features have been lost over the years. It is our contention however, that the building is of sufficient merit to be added to the City Council’s list of local heritage assets.
- Development inappropriate in the context of the Far Gosford Street Conservation Area
We are concerned that the proposed development is of an inappropriate scale and design for a new building in the Far Gosford Street Conservation Area. We are also concerned about the facade to Far Gosford Street and Vecqueray Street, essentially comprising an extensive brick wall.
Policy CC15 of Coventry’s City Centre Action Area Plan (2017) makes clear that new developments within the Far Gosford Street Conservation Area must respect and reflect the area’s historic character. We contend that this is clearly not the case with this proposal, the scale of which is overbearing, excessively dominant and incongruent with this historic area of the city. Development should enhance rather than harm the conservation area.
Policy HE2 of the Coventry Local Plan addresses conservation and heritage assets. It states that development proposals will be supported where they conserve, and where appropriate, enhance those aspects of the historic environment that are recognised to be of special significance. This includes designated heritage assets, locally listed buildings and other features that may not be formally designated but are recognised as significant elements of Coventry’s heritage…. It is our contention that the former Empire / Paris building , sitting within the Far Gosford Street Conservation Area, represents such an heritage asset and should as a matter of urgency be added to the City Council’s Local list of Heritage Assets.
Paragraph 200 of the National Planning Policy Framework says that Local Authorities should look for opportunities for new developments in Conservation Areas or within the setting of heritage assets to enhance or better reveal their significance. It is our contention that this proposal fails to do this.
- Loss of a Cultural Amenity
We are concerned about the loss of a building which has played an important role cultural role in this inner – city area and which could easily do so again. The building was for many years a cinema and has subsequently played a role in the life of the city as a snooker hall, night club and latterly as an important events venue.
- Noise impact
We also object on the grounds that the accompanying noise assessment fails to address the potential impact of entertainment noise from Scholars Nightclub on the proposed noise sensitive premises.
Failure to address the potential impact of existing sources of entertainment noise is a significant and serious omission in the context of the National Planning Policy Framework and its associated guidance. The Environmental Health Office should have no option other than to recommend against approval of the application on the grounds that proposed development would lead to significant impacts on health and quality of life for new residents and creates potential for an existing and established business to be negatively impacted as a result of noise nuisance action. Scholars night club is immediately across Vecqueray St. from the proposed new development. The City Council has a responsibility to protect the ongoing operation of established businesses through the planning process which in this instance it fails to address.
- Excess Provision of Student Accommodation in the City
We also object to yet further student accommodation in the city centre. Initially specialist student accommodation was supported as it provided facilities that were much needed and which free up general housing which had been converted into student lets. However, the sheer quantity of student accommodation in the city centre now is disproportionate to the city’s need and we are concerned that Coventry will be blighted for years to come by underused blocks of student accommodation. We request that the city council does not grant any further planning permissions for student housing until such time as a comprehensive assessment of need has been undertaken. The applicant provides information on the number of students in the city at the moment, but the information on the quantity of specialist student housing units is outdated. The latest data appears to be that which was included in the Coventry Local Plan. This information dates from 2014. No more up to date information appears to exist. In the absence of this data, decisions are having to be taken without the up to date the information needed to make informed decisions.
We would also argue that if planning permission is to be granted for further student accommodation, buildings should be constructed in such a way that if demand for specialist student housing fails to materialise, now or at some time in the future, then their conversion to general purpose residential accommodation should be possible, rather than the buildings becoming expensive “White Elephants” that blight the city for years to come.
For this catalogue of reasons, we ask that this application be refused.