Will Odeon cinema in Kensington become flats despite protests from Benedict Cumberbatch, Richard Curtis and Sir John Hurt?

One of London’s finest Art Deco cinemas is set to become a seven-screen subterranean movie complex so that luxury flats can be built above, if the plans are approved next week.
The move comes despite protests by big-name stars, including Benedict Cumberbatch, Richard Curtis and Sir John Hurt.
 
Kensington & Chelsea council will finally rule on an epic wrangle, which has gone on for more than a quarter of a century, over proposals to redevelop the 1,300-seat Odeon in Kensington High Street. The first bid to turn the cinema into homes was made in 1989.
 
Hundreds of local residents, plus a bevy of film stars that also includes Sir Ian Holm, Colin Baker and Dave Prowse — who played Darth Vader in the Star Wars movies — have voiced their dissent.
 
Prince and Princess Michael of Kent, who regularly visit the Odeon, have also spoken out against developer Minerva, which wants to create 42 private homes and 20 affordable homes.
 
The council threw out the plans in January, but made a U-turn after the developer promised to include a seven-screen subterranean cinema, with a total of 875 seats, and donate just over £450,000 towards affordable housing in the borough.

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The cinema’s classical façade with its grand proscenium arch will be preserved.

 
A report on the project to be considered by the council’s planning committee says: “The proposals would represent a great improvement to the area through high-quality architecture, providing residential accommodation, including affordable units on-site, an improvement to the cultural offer, and the provision of further commercial and retail floor space.”
 
New two-bedroom flats in this area currently sell for about £2 million.
 
Resident and campaigner John Rosenberg says: “There is no call for more luxury accommodation in this neighbourhood.
 
“The experience elsewhere, quite likely to be repeated here, is that many of the flats are bought by overseas investors who leave them unfurnished and unoccupied. It is shameful.”

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