Council set to start Empire purchase process

Wed 23 January 2013, 5:08 pm

Ealing Council's cabinet has approved the choice of Land Securities as the authority's preferred developer for the Empire Cinema site - and authorised officers to begin the process of acquiring the land.

The move on the part of the council’s most senior committee indicates it fully intends to push ahead with taking the long-derelict site out of Empire Cinemas’ control after a key deadline passed last October.

Ealing said officers were now likely to seek a compulsory purchase order (CPO) for the site, although an agreement with Empire was also possible.

Council leader Julian Bell said a full three months had now elapsed since Empire’s deadline for providing evidence of a full construction contract, and that preliminary on-site work was not a substitute.

“We’re concerned this minimal work is just a cynical ploy to stall or thwart a CPO,“ he said.

“It’s been four years and four months since Empire closed the old cinema, and in that time we’ve given them every opportunity to build a new cinema or at least show evidence of their intent to do so.

“And yet all we have to show from Empire is a derelict site and an unsightly steel structure that’s blighting the town centre.

“Tuesday night’s decision means we won’t be putting up with that a day longer than we have to.”

Ealing wants to see a comprehensive mixed-use development that links the cinema with the town centre and Walpole Park.

It says the site has potential for restaurants, shops, residential, cultural industries, art galleries and performance spaces, which will extend south from the cinema towards Ealing Studios.

Land Securities was selected as the council’s preferred developer in November, following a bidding process.

Development director Nick Davis said the firm was delighted to have received the cabinet’s endorsement.

“We think Ealing has great potential and this ‘cinema quarter’ scheme will have a hugely positive effect on the town centre,” he said.

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