Save the Odeon, Shaftesbury Avenue as a theatre or cinema

CGCA is presenting a case at the Planning Appeal in December 2020, and there  is a lot of interest in what happens.

Plans for a hotel would add 3 extra floors

Local people are against this beautiful listed building being turned into a hotel with 3 modern floors on top, an extra basement and a roof terrace.

We believe that the plans would ruin the building and badly affect those living behind.  The extra height would also cut off much of The Phoenix Garden’s sunlight.  The plans are on Camden’s website here, along with our evidence documents.

The building used to be the ‘Saville Theatre’ and its exterior is an unspoilt gem of 1930’s architecture.  You can see what it was like in its glory days at the theatre history website here.  It narrowly missed destruction in World War II, and continued to thrive until 1970 when it became a cinema.  It was also famous for its weekend gigs, started by Brian Epstein when he was managing the Beatles, where everyone from The Who to Jimi Hendrix and Pink Floyd performed.  We have put together a short video montage that you can see here.

The Saville Theatre in 1958

Well-known theatre owners would be prepared to buy the building and turn it back into a theatre with minimal alteration and full refurbishment.  The current owner of the building is Haim Danous (founder of Thai Square restaurants), and we thought he would be keen to take up their offers, but he is pressing on with plans for a hotel with restaurants and bars instead.  Camden council rejected his plans in 2018, but he is appealing to the Planning Inspector – which means that we need to put up a renewed and stronger fight to keep this last theatre in the West End. Or leave it as a cinema, which serves us well.

Please feel free to register to attend the Appeal inquiry and listen to some of it, and even to speak.  Several local people and experts will appear as our witnesses, but that doesn’t stop others from adding their voices.  The inquiry is being held online from 1st December to 18th December, and 5th to 6th January .  Issues relating to residential amenity are on the agenda for the first two days.

Please drop an email to info@CoventGarden.org.uk if you would like details of how to register, or call Amanda at CGCA on 07957 388801.

We are making the case that:
– the council should have given more consideration to amenity issues such as loss of light and privacy behind the extra floors;
– arrangements to deal with potential chaos from building work and then from hotel deliveries are not fit for purpose;
– conversion to a hotel destroys the character of the building as primarily a place of entertainment.

We are also presenting evidence to support the council’s stronger reasons for refusal, by making the case that:
– the rooftop extension ruins the building and harms the surrounding Conservation Areas, and
– continuing as a cinema is viable, or how could Odeon have negotiated £5 million to leave along with waiving repair costs estimated at £10 million? And
– the developer should pursue the option of selling the building to one of the theatre companies whom we know are interested in turning it back into what it was originally designed for.

A number of local people are appearing as witnesses.

The Theatres Trust and The Phoenix Garden are also presenting cases against the developer.

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