The “Agent of Change” comes to the rescue of Curzon Cinema

7 October, 2016
by: Cripps Pemberton Greenish

Former civil rights solicitor, Sadiq Khan, has held the post of London Mayor since May 2016.  Since then, he has been actively committed to setting about change.  Now, Sadiq has swooped into the battle concerning the longevity of the Curzon Cinema, Mayfair.


Curzon Cinemas were established in 1934 and currently have 10 cinema complexes throughout the UK.  The Curzon Mayfair has stood proudly in London for the last 82 years.  Now, in its old age, the cinema faces a lengthy dispute with developers, 38 Curzon Ltd, who are converting the offices above the cinema into upmarket residential flats and who have raised a complaint about the lack of soundproofing.  The developer states that the Curzon Mayfair is in breach of its lease.


Curzon Cinemas have argued that they are unable to afford the costly work of soundproofing, and would not be able to obtain planning approval for the works as the auditorium and surrounding walls are classified as “listed”.  The parties have been unable to reach an agreement and so the Curzon Mayfair risks eviction as a result of an action for forfeiture of its lease.


Planning laws in the UK are notoriously stringent when it comes to the preservation of listed buildings and any unauthorised work on a listed building is a criminal offence.  When the planning authority reviews an application, it will consider the desirability of the preservation of the building, where the building is situated and those features that make it distinct.  An article published by the Independent Cinema Office states that there are around 150 listed cinema buildings in England, although some are not currently in use.


Sadiq Khan has joined “team Curzon” and has pledged his full support by publishing the following statement on Facebook:


I intend to protect venues like the Curzon Mayfair by introducing an ‘Agent of Change’ rule into the next London Plan.  Developers would be responsible for ensuring their new developments don’t threaten the future of existing venues.


That would mean developers building flats near existing venues will need to ensure that residents are not unduly affected by sound from the venue, and that may include paying for soundproofing.


I’m very pleased to hear that Westminster Council included this principle when the planning application was first submitted in 2013, and are taking the necessary steps to protect a cinema which makes a significant contribution to the character of the area and is a real cultural gem.


For Curzon Cinemas, Sadiq Khan may be regarded as their “angel of change” as the rule will attempt to switch the onus onto developers to soundproof new builds.  This will also come as a welcome relief for London’s nightlife industry, especially after the widely reported dispute concerning Ministry of Sound in 2014.  However, this is not such good news for developers who will have to incorporate this cost into their building works, and there is no doubt that it will be the residential purchasers footing the bill.