Acton Library to Be Converted into Cinema

Arts Centre team react with disappointment at bid failure


Acton Library to Be Converted into Cinema

Acton Arts Centre Campaign

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A bid by Curzon Cinemas to take over the old Acton Library building and turn it into a three-screen cinema has been selected as Ealing Council's preferred option.

The council received five bids for the site. Two proposed turning the site into flats. One suggested flats above retail space. Another proposed the creation of a community arts centre with a cinema space, theatre and a bar. The fifth, from Curzon Cinemas, was a three-screen cinema, along with a restaurant, bar and three flats on the top floor.

Ealing Council moved Acton’s library into the newly-rebuilt Everyone Active Acton Centre earlier this year and put the old listed library building on the market for sale. The proceeds of the sale will help to pay for the £19million council investment in the Acton Centre.

All the bids were assessed against the same criteria including their contribution to the regeneration and vitality of the local town centre, the likelihood of the project being delivered, the impact upon the listed building and the value of the offer.

The news comes as a major disappointment to campaigners for an arts centre for Acton. Their bid to takeover the building had attracted celebrity supporters including Stephen Fry and Sophie Ellis-Bextor.

'We believe in, and stand by, our plan - it’s robust, flexible, credible and creative,’ said Glynne
Steele, co-Director of the Old Library Arts Centre project. 'The biggest challenge we’ve always
faced is that, in order to secure the building we needed the funding but, in order to secure the
funding, we needed the building - a real Catch-22. We’ve had national funding bodies lining up to support and fund the project - but only when we’d secured the building. Being treated as any
other commercial bidder by Ealing Council has been incredibly difficult to navigate, which has
resulted in our bid looking commercially weaker than the others, despite having been able to offer £1.5 million for the lease. The fact that we got down to the last two in the process is testament to the professionalism and dedication of the entire team.’ 

Julie Saunders, co-Director of the Project and Director of Theatre Studio West based in Acton,
said 'This was a bid from Acton for Acton and, after the loss of the Priory Centre, Ealing Council
have once again betrayed the people of Acton by missing an opportunity to allow the widest
possible cross-section of the community to engage in the arts in all their forms.’

A decision on whether to go ahead will be made by Ealing Council’s cabinet on Tuesday, 16 December.

Councillor Julian Bell, leader of Ealing Council, said: “I will be recommending this proposal to cabinet, because I believe that a top independent cinema like Curzon will be a major asset for Acton. This is their fourth outer London cinema and getting them to come to Acton is a major coup. The cinema will attract visitors and further investment to the area, boost local shops and restaurants and improve Ealing’s range of cultural experiences. “

He added that they were keeping up the pressure to bring a cinema back to Ealing town centre after 'years of broken promises from Empire.'

Mel Alcock, chief operating officer for Curzon Cinemas, said: "As with all Curzon Cinemas, the design of the new venue will embrace and respect its surroundings and, we hope, become a natural hub for the local community."

Andrew Steel, the arts centre bid team Project Manager said that 'Ealing’s decision by no means puts an end to our plans for Acton. We fundamentally believe that an Arts Centre is the right offer, and is one that we’ll continue to pursue.’

The council is seeking confirmation of the CPO which it made in July. The have submitted a Statement of Case to the government's national planning casework unit who have arranged for an inquiry to be held by an independent inspector if negotiations to acquire the land involved are not resolved. The inquiry is set to take place in April 2015.

December 8, 2014