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Plans for homes on Filwood Broadway’s old cinema site approved by council

Anger that cinema is to be demolished this year

Main image Bristol City Council

Plans for 30 homes on the site of the old Filwood Broadway cinema have been approved this week – despite anger from residents who want to preserve the building.

The old cinema on Filwood Broadway.

The former Art Deco cinema was built in the 1930s and became a full time bingo hall in the 1980s. It was also used for concerts and boxing matches – American pop star PJ Proby played there in 1964 and Knowle West boxing hero Dixie Brown fought there. It finally closed in 1994 and has remained unused ever since.

Approval to demolish the building was given in June 2019, following a planning application for 30 affordable homes with community and commercial space on the site – which also includes derelict land beside it which once housed a garage.

Nick Haskins from Knowle West Residents Voice Group, whose grandfather built the picture house, told the council’s Development Control Committee on January 18: “Bristol City Council has lied, cheated, conspired  to do everything that they could to pull this building down up off Filwood Broadway…”

He said he had carried out his own survey in the area and there were 2,000 people in Knowle West that wanted the building.

“There’s children up at Filwood Broadway that are so talented it untrue. We could use that building …for arts and boxing and bingo/cinema. There’s a lot of stuff that could be done in that building  so we cant make sure that the kids in Knowle West have something – because at the moment they’ve got nothing.”

Nick Haskins from Knowle West Residents Voice Group speaking at the council meeting.

The new development will consist of 17 flats fronting Filwood Broadway with 541 sq m of flexible floor space for commercial and community use. There will also be 13 houses built along a new crescent road at the rear of the site.

Artist’s impression of the new crescent behind Filwood Broadway. Image Bristol City Council.

The meeting heard previous applications to get the cinema listed or classified as a community asset had been unsuccessful.

Committee chair Cllr Ani Stafford-Townsend (Green) said she appreciated Mr Haskins’ passion but they could not consider the demolition of the cinema as part of the application as it already had prior approval.

She said: “I would like to think this is the last time we lost a building like this of significance to Bristol, and I hope going forward Bristol City Council is much more proactive in supporting communities in saving these assets for the community…”

Cllr Fabian Breckells (Labour) said: “I think it is a very nice scheme… I do think it’s highly regrettable that the cinema building is going to be lost but there’s a separate permission for that anyway. If we said we’re not going to support this because we don’t want to lose the cinema building, it could still be demolished anyway and we’d just have an even bigger hole in the ground…”

He said it was unfortunate there were protests now about losing the cinema now – nearly 30 years after it closed.

He said: “Cinemas can be restored and rescued after a long period of dereliction … 30 years of deterioration is an awful lot and it’s just a shame that people in the community didn’t get the building kept and repurposed in the mid-90s when it was vacant.

“…As it’s a separate permission anyway there is not anything we can do to save the building, the question is what happens to this plot of land… What matters is the correct use of the flexible space and the other retail space so it’s stuff that local residents actually want… Given I can’t save the cinema, which I’d love to, I see no reason to oppose what is actually a very attractive scheme…

“…If a group were to come forward even at this 11th hour with a plan to repurpose that building, I would like to think that we would be open to it. But obviously all we can decide today is what’s in front of us right now…”

In the past schemes have been investigated to save the former cinema including by local councillors – but were scrapped due to the amount of asbestos in the building.

There were eight objections to the scheme, including loss of rear access by charity and social enterprise re:work, increasing traffic and no supermarket proposed.

The plans was passed by six votes to nought, with Cllr Lorraine Francis (Green) abstaining because of concerns that a shadowing survey had not been carried out for gardens behind the development and loss of trees.

Cllr Francis also asked if something could be kept from the old cinema to immortalise it – even though it wasn’t listed.

In a consultation about the plans for the site last summer, Filwood Broadway Working Group asked if the cinema could be kept and re-purposed or alternatively the historic frontage preserved with a new building behind – or at least provide a mural of the cinema on the new buildings.