Back in October 2012, we wrote an article about a former Gala Bingo hall in London, which was drawing plenty of criticism from the community over its new owner’s intentions of turning it into a nightclub. Whilst Franco Lumba finally submitted to the pressure and sold it on to a new developer (CNM Estates) to be used for community purposes, he was back in court in April 2013 for making illegal alterations to the historic building.
The premises was originally a former Regal Cinema in Kingston, London, which opened its doors to film-lovers in 1932, and contained many beautiful Art Deco features. It remained a cinema until 1976 (under different names), when it closed until 1991 and was only given a new lease of life as a Coral Bingo club in 1991. Gala Bingo took over the hall in 2010 but the doors remained closed until new owner, Franco Lumba, earmarked it for a 2,000 capacity nightclub.
Despite being advised by local planning officers that certain alterations must not be made to the Grade II listed building, Lumba (who owns FL Trading Limited) proceeded to rip out the floor of the club without planning consent. When he appeared in Croydon Crown Court on 8th April 2013, he pleaded guilty to performing the work and was fined £75,000.
Originally, the case was due to be heard in the Kingston area, but due to local animosity about the occurrence, it was relocated to Croydon. Mr. Lumba is also said to have only changed his plea to guilty a few days before the trial was due to commence.
Richard Heller, prosecuting, told the court that “the entire floor had been reduced to rubble,” and that even if restoration were possible, the historic materials from the original flooring would no longer be available to use. He continued to say that despite several warnings from the planning officers, Lumba had chosen to ignore them and proceeded with his redevelopment plans regardless. Philip Evans (defending) then told the court that Mr Lumba’s behaviour was due to his dyslexia which hampered his reading and writing abilities, adding that when his client took over the building, the flooring was already in a bad condition.
The court reached a guilty verdict and decreed that Mr. Lumba must pay £45,000, plus a further £29,200 in costs over an eight-month period. The former Gala Bingo hall is now due to be converted for residential use within the boundaries set out by the local planning commission.