The bingo hall opened as a cinema in 1938

An Eltham bingo hall at the centre of an angry row during the last general election has been removed from a list of sites in Greenwich borough that could be redeveloped.

Mecca Bingo on Eltham Hill was dragged into local politics at the end of 2019 when Louie French, the Conservative candidate in the general election, campaigned on a pledge to save the building, which opened in 1938 as a cinema.

The building appeared in the council’s draft site allocations policy – a planning document that sets out what the town hall would like to see happen at sites that could come up for redevelopment – as “underused site on the edge of Eltham town centre”.

“Redevelopment presents an opportunity to enhance the townscape while making more efficient use of this accessible edge of town centre site.”

French, who called it “Labour’s plan to turn the site into flats”, acted after developers had invited local residents to a drop-in session about a plan to knock down the building and replace it with 130 homes.

Greenwich Council leader Danny Thorpe accused the Tories of “misrepresenting the situation”.

Councillors will vote to formally ratify the policy put the policy out to further consultation tomorrow, but the Mecca site has been removed from the updated list. “Existing policies provide sufficient guidance regarding any future development of the site,” councillors are told in a document ahead of tomorrow’s meeting.

Eltham North councillor Spencer Drury said on Twitter that “I reckon [Louie] can claim a victory as this week Greenwich Council has abandoned plans to allocate the Mecca Bingo site specifically for housing. Well done Louie.”

However, the change of plan does not necessarily mean the building – owned by a British Virgin Islands-based company – is safe from redevelopment.

Mecca had recently closed its branch in Catford, but told 853 at the time it was “determined” to stay in Eltham. However, Land Registry documents still indicate that its lease expires this September.

The building, which has operated as a bingo hall since 1967, also appears in a nine-year-old council masterplan for Eltham, which says it would be “appropriate for residential development in the future”.

31 March update: Story amended as councillors put the policy out to further consultation at tonight’s meeting, rather than formally approving it, as part of a process that cabinet member Sarah Merrill called “torturous”.

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