The owner of a former Gala Bingo Hall in Richmond Road, Kingston has found himself in deep water, and facing Crown Court prosecution. The owner, Mr. Franco Lumba, will be in trial for charges relating to the alteration of the grade II listed building.
Lumba was not present at the trial’s preliminary hearing on 10th April, which took place at Richmond Magistrate’s Court. The reason for his absence, according to his defence, was due to a hospital stay because of an eye operation. This left the legal representative for Kingston Council, Miss Saima Khan, to share the details regarding the charges against Lumba.
Lumba is the sole owner and shareholder of the FL Trading Company, who owns the ex-Gala Bingo Hall on Richmond Street as well as Essence nightclub and the Vanilla Bar in Windsor. Khan asserted that Lumba is accused of making alterations to the listed building, which had formerly served as a Regal Cinema and then a bingo club, in the period between August 24th and October 26th 2010.
The case found its jurisdiction declined by magistrates after they decided if Lumba was found guilty, they may not have sufficient sentencing powers, as they can only impose a prison sentence of up to 6 months or a fine of £20,000. Both can be issued in the case of listed buildings like the ex-Gala Bingo Hall. However, Crown Courts have stronger sentencing powers meaning they can send someone to prison for a longer sentence, of anything up to two years in what would be considered extreme circumstances and they also have the power to enforce an unlimited fine. Formal commitment of the case to the Crown Court at Richmond Magistrates’ Court will take place on May 8th.
This former bingo hall has found itself in the news previously as residents campaigned to stop it being converted into an arena with a 24 hour license. Residents were put off by the idea of late night music and drinking in their neighbourhood and protested furiously back in January of 2011.
Similarly, Lumba has found himself in the local press previously due to an assault on the presenter of channel Five’s Gadget Show, Jason Bradbury. Lumba found himself in Richmond Magistrates’ Court back then and was fined as well as handed a restraining order. His latest misdemeanour is said to contravene the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 and only time will tell what sentence Lumba will receive this time.
Maybe Gala Bingo should buy the property back and return it to the bingo playing community - who undoubtedly would appreciate having their much-loved bingo venue back on the map.