An old Gala Bingo hall in a London borough was, until earlier this month, ear-marked for a new lease of life as a 2,000 capacity nightclub. However, due to fierce opposition from the local community, the building’s owner has backed down.
The Hall has been derelict for the past few years, but Franco Lumba took ownership of it in 2010 in the hopes of turning it into a new, local nightspot. Many residents of the Kingston area have been vigourously campaigning against the plans, and were finally able to celebrate their victory in mid-September 2012, when Lumba decided to sell the property to a new developer – CNM Estates.
Wahid Samady will now determine the future of the site in his role as new owner, saying that part of the reason why they had stepped in was because of the fierce local opposition to the previous owner’s plans. Instead, he hopes to “bring together the community, the planners, various owners and stakeholders” and bring “vibrancy” to the property, making it “a building used for the 21st-century.”
Mr. Lumba’s company, Kingston Arena, is said to have purchased the building for £1.975m back in October 2012, and planned to turn it into a fully-licenced nightclub. However, controversy has surrounded the site ever since, and his application for planning permission to open the club was rejected by the local council. Lumba went on to face further set-backs as he was subsequently charged with several offences, including money-laundering, and illegally ripping up the dance floor of the Kingston bingo hall, which is a Grade II listed building.
New owners, CNM Estates, are well-known for building housing developments in the area, including sites in Tolworth and Surbiton, and are currently hoping to build a new 142-bedroom Hilton Hotel in Tolworth.
The ex-Gala Bingo hall originally opened as the Regal Cinema in 1932 and still retains many of its original Art Deco features. It continued to operate under different names until 1976, when it finally closed its doors, eventually reopening as a Coral Bingo club in 1991. Since Gala took over the site in April 2010, its doors have remained closed, and its future uncertain. It is yet to be disclosed what purpose its new owners have for it.
In a time where the future of local bingo clubs is increasingly uncertain, what do you think should be done to address the issue of derelict buildings? Are there any uses you can think of for sites such as the Kingston club that would benefit the local community?