The Right to Regenerate – the Hobson Street Cinema?

The Housing Secretary has launched a new policy – but it applies to council-owned buildings only. His list of questions in the consultation here does not mention privately-owned assets. To respond to the consultation (and call for the powers to be extended to privately-owned long-term unused buildings) you can email directly righttocontestconsultation@communities.gov.uk or at the form linked near the top of this page.

The press release is here.

This policy won’t work for the old Hobson Street Cinema.
The building in white – Hobson Street Cinema, with the old Dorothy Cafe, now Waterstones, next to it. From Britain From Above EPW 045032

The plight of the wonderful Art Deco cinema on Hobson Street is something I periodically come back to given it has been locked up for over a decade. A short history of the building is here.

In 2018, the Cambridge News tried to chase up the company that owns it to find out what is going on.

“Cambridgeshire Live has spoken to management company Endurance Estates but it has so far remained tight-lipped about what exactly the plans will entail except that there will be a community element.

Watch this space.”

Cambridge News, 26 Aug 2018

We’re still watching. And that’s the problem – there’s no positive action. There wasn’t a shortage of suggestions either.

Open floor space not just for dance classes but also other activities would be wonderful!

What it should have become in the early 2010s but the police and Sidney Sussex objected and the application was refused. Unfortunately supporters of new music venues in Cambridge were unaware of what was going on and were not able to organise quickly enough to support the application. We are, however, in a very different place a decade later after ten years of austerity and now having to deal with the fallout of Brexit and the impact of a pandemic where amongst other things, isolation and loneliness are now recognised as public health and public policy issues.

“What has happened since?”

Not much.

I made a short video back in 2016 a couple of months after having asked a public question at Cambridge City Council’s full council in April 2016. See the minutes here and scroll down to Public Question Time.

I followed that up with a public question later. that year.

In 2017 I made another video clip.

I followed it up in 2018 in a written Q to West-Central Area Committee but still nothing doing. A month later the Cambridge News asked readers what it thought should happen to the building.

And here we are today, with the building still closed.

“Could this become a political issue – even an election issue in the local elections currently scheduled for May 2021 – i.e. in four months time?”

Only if voters want it to be one – perhaps as part of a theme of opening up new community spaces to rebuild our city as we collectively emerge from the pandemic. Because our frontline services – health, education, social care, deliveries, and food retail/essential retail amongst others have been through hell. Have a look at the graphs, charts, and animated displays on how Cambridge has been affected.

“What do the election candidates say?”

You can ask them directly via https://whocanivotefor.co.uk/ – an online tool that allows voters and the public to find out who is standing for election in their communities (and contact them directly/watch campaign videos/read local manifestos). Which reminds me; if you are standing for election this year (or know someone who is), please ensure that your/their publicity and social media links are listed on Who Can I Vote For? (A Democracy Club Project).

Alternatively you can drop an email to our local MP Daniel Zeichner and ask him to seek a response from the Secretary of State on how #RightToRegenerate will enable local residents and activists to bring this wonderful building back into community use.

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