Waltham Forest Echo

Waltham Forest Echo

Chance to have say on Secret Cinema plans

Popular event company’s summer sports ground plans to come under scrutiny, reports by Victoria Munro, Local Democracy Reporter Waltham Forest [...]

Hero for Chance to have say on Secret Cinema plans
Low Hall Recreation Ground and, inset, plans for the site submitted by Secret Cinema

Popular event company’s summer sports ground plans to come under scrutiny, reports by Victoria Munro, Local Democracy Reporter

Waltham Forest residents have until Sunday to give their views on contentious plans to hold “immersive” film screenings at a Walthamstow sports ground throughout the summer.

Despite objections, events company Secret Cinema was last month granted a licence for screenings at Low Hall Sports Ground, almost daily from 5th July until 12th September this year.

But the company now needs planning permission to install 142 temporary structures, including a 16-metre-high screen, with work at the ground in South Access Road due to start in mid-June and last from 8am-8pm for three weeks.

The company plans to hold one outdoor screening every day of the week except Mondays, with tickets ranging from £49 to £89 and performances ending at 10.30pm.

At a licensing committee meeting last month, opponents of the scheme urged councillors to reject the application, arguing that preserving access to open space for the public was more important.

Objector Isla Johns said: “A large number of children would have their activity and exercise space removed for the entire school summer holiday and almost all warm weather weekends either side.

“There are certainly reasons to support events in green spaces but this application deprives the community during the day in order to serve its premium client base at night.”

John Mannion, from Coppermill Swifts FC, warned the placement of the site will make most, if not all, of the ground’s football pitches unusable.

On behalf of Secret Cinema, Rob Haworth told the committee the company was still waiting to hear how many sports pitches the event would displace and would find alternatives in the borough for those that were.

Responding to residents’ concerns, he said: “We completely understand we could be perceived as a big problem for the area over the summer and that’s the last thing we want.

“I’m not going to pretend there’s no impact from what we are proposing but I believe we can limit those impacts.”

The planning application submitted to the council provides more details about how the site will be constructed, with work expected to start on Monday 14th June.

The company estimates it will take “approximately three weeks” to build the temporary site and that there will be another week for rehearsals before the first screening on Wednesday 14th July.

The first set of screenings will end on Sunday 1st August, followed by a four-day “changeover” and ten days of preparation and rehearsals, before a new set of screenings starts on Wednesday 18th August.

The application states that “noisy” works, that can be heard outside the site, will last from 8am-8pm, although “quiet” works may take place 24 hours a day.

The application adds: “Staff involved in these activities… will be made aware of the type of ‘common sense’ precautions they should be taking to minimise noise.”

The company’s application also includes a set of testimonials from previous performances, including its own 2016 summer programme in Leyton Jubilee Park. The council’s head of culture and visitor services at the time, Lorna Lee, described working with Secret Cinema as “a real pleasure”.

Lorna said in 2016: “As well as being enjoyed by hundreds of local residents, the quality of the Secret Cinema brand attracted many new visitors to Waltham Forest, boosting the local economy and raising the profile of the borough.”

Residents have until Sunday 14th February to give their views on the application: Visit builtenvironment.walthamforest.gov.uk/planning/index.html?fa=getApplication&id=48792