THE latest local authority to come a cropper in the craze for building multiplex cinema complexes is Bromley council in south London.
At Bromley magistrates' court at the end of last month the council accused London mayor Ken Livingstone of wasting taxpayers' money by hiring top barrister Gerald Gouriet to represent his objection to an application for 14 liquor licences at the multiplex Bromley is determined to see built on Crystal Palace park (Eyes passim).
Gouriet satisfied magistrates that Ken's objection was legitimate and noted that the only extra cost to the GLA was his own fee, which he was prepared to waive if required. On the subject of wasting taxpayers' money, Bromley, which was not even a party to the licence application by developer London & Regional Properties, employed Gregory Stone QC, assisted by a junior barrister and a pupil. No mention was made of any of their fees being waived.
Gouriet castigated the council for having been "dazzled by a pot of gold" in pursuit of this folly. Local taxpayers may soon wake up to the fact that not only has their council already spent the £6m premium to be paid by the developer for the lease, but councillors and officers could face catastrophic personal surcharges if the government, at the European commission's bidding, overturns the planning permission (the commission ruled in October that the planning procedure was fatally flawed because there had been no environmental impact assessment).
Despite Stone's best efforts magistrates listened to residents' objections and chopped nearly 80,000 sq ft off the 88,000 sq ft of "mass volume vertical drinking" space L&RP had applied for. Instead of 10 pubs they will end up with one pub and 10 restaurants where patrons must be seated and consume meals served by waiters before they can buy drinks.
Other conditions included no live music, no special entertainment licences, no occasional licences and no off-sales. No wonder L&RP's Geoff Springer admitted that so far he had no takers for the huge licensed spaces in the multiplex - for which, thankfully, not a sod has yet been turned.
Last updated 17/12/00