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VERTICAL FOREST: Historic cinema set to be demolished

VERTICAL FOREST: Historic cinema set to be demolished

Image: LDRS

A historic cinema in Sandwell is set to be demolished to be turned into a 15-storey ‘vertical forest’ clad with bushes and trees – similar to designs in Holland, Italy and China.

The plan, for King’s Cinema in West Bromwich, proposes 77 apartments with ground floor shops and hundreds of plants on all sides of the building.

It will be named Wellbeing Tower and feature Asian, African and European plant species and the employment of ‘flying gardners’ to maintain them.

Plant species should also be tested in wind tunnels before installation to prevent uprooting in bad weather.

There will be basement residential parking for 45 cars, 92 cycles bays, and a second floor open-air podium garden to use as a residential amenity area.

King’s Cinema, first opened in March 1974, was unique for being the first purpose built cinema specifically designed to host multiple screens at a time when traditional circle and stalls cinemas were in fashion.

In 1989, it became the first independent picture house to introduce a computerised box office.

The cinema continued to operate until September 2002.

It is not clear why the cinema  closed, but speculation suggests access to the site was made difficult during redevelopment of the adjacent West Bromwich bus station and building of the public arts centre.

Despite the intention of the cinema to reopen when construction work was completed and full access to the cinema restored, the cinema did not reopen on completion of the bus station or the arts centre project.

In 2006, the ground floor of the building was converted to retail space with clothing chain Peacocks operating as part of two units open on the site. At present, just one of the two retail units is still in use.

The proposed block of residential apartments is said to fall under Sandwell council’s ‘Development Action Plan’ as a new opportunity to develop a range of high quality homes in the area.

Some residents are already cautious about the application.

Pepe Adrahams, a resident in West Bromwich said: “Don’t you think we should be building bars, restaurants, nightclubs, and bowling alleys for our youth and bring cash into our town, instead of our youth going to spend their money in Birmingham or Wolverhampton?”

Linda White, another resident of West Bromwich, said: “We don’t need more apartments in the town centre, we need amenities instead.”

Cllr Bawa Singh Dhallu, Lab, West Bromwich Central, said: “I am not sure myself of the planning into this redevelopment, but I am definitely in favour of regeneration.

“We had a meeting last night to discuss the redevelopment. No one has put concerns to me yet, but I would be happy to speak on their behalf if they so wished to.”

 

Words: Rhi Storer, Local Democracy Reporter


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