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 Woolton picture house gives Speke cinema a helping hand   The 10th of August 2018 will likely go down in the history of Woolton Picturehouse  as the day another local cinema peed all over their popcorn machine. In contrast for the cinema going residents of Speke and other surrounding districts it will be a day of celebration as their dreams of having their own state of the art multiscreen cinema finally become reality. For the residents of Woolton village having another of their local amenities put at risk for Speke development is something they are becoming all too familiar with. Sceptics who shrug off the notion need look no further than the demise and fall of the nearby Gateacre garden centre, a once popular small family run business established over 80 years ago. The 3rd generation owners said “As a direct result of an 8 acre Dobbies garden centre opening in Speke in 2011 it seen our sales dented overnight by 20%”. Consequently three years later in 2014 the owners decided to close the site, citing the reason for closure as “We were unable to compete with our large scale Speke Competitors”. The former garden centre has since been raised to the ground and replaced by residential housing. Although plans to open a Speke multiplex were not approved until 2015, the constant multiplex threat has hung over the Woolton Picture house since the early 1990’s. One man who was instrumental in the fight to keep the Speke Multiplex at bay was the Late David Wood, the former owner of The Woolton Picturehouse between 1992-2006.Described by his employee’s at Woolton as ‘being extremely passionate and protective towards the Picturehouse, the  cinema which he affectionately called ‘His Baby’. Sentiment aside he was also an astute businessman fully aware of the irreversible damage to his cinema business if ever a local multiplex cinema opened its doors. With this in mind from the beginning of his 14 year tenure at Woolton Picturehouse he made it his priority to put together a well-executed plan of action to ward off any such threat. This would be a journey which would see him hire the services of barristers at great expense to fight the cause and take his case to the secretary of state in efforts to protect the Picturehouse from demise. One of several of David Wood’s battles to stave off the Speke multiplex was in 2003. After hearing an application had been submitted by Cambos Enterprises Ltd to build on behalf of their clients a 9 screen cinema on Speke Hall Rd, David Wood rallied support from local residents to fight this proposal. When the council planners met to decide the fate of the application, the developers Cambos were quietly confident their application would be approved, however to their frustration the application was refused in part because of the many objections and concerns of local residents. On another occasion David Wood at a cost of thousands of pounds engaged the services of a highly distinguished Cheshire Barrister specialising in the field of planning to submit an objection to another Speke multiplex proposal and to provide him with legal representation before the local planning committee to oppose the plans.When the council planners met to decide the fate of this application, the multi million pound development was refused. After the meeting a member within the planning department praised the objection submitted on behalf of David Wood, stating it was one of the strongest and most professional objections by an individual they had received opposing an application of this type in many long years. A well learned employee at Woolton Picturehouse during David Wood’s tenure, told us “The recipe for success opposing a Speke multiplex application did not focus on the detrimental effect to the Picturehouse business itself but instead focused on the adverse impact on the residential amenities of the neighbouring district [Woolton] and how it would undermine the vitality, viability and evening economy of Woolton Village. These key issues reflected the same goals and objectives laid out in Liverpool councils unitary development plan [UDP] of 2002 and are factors the planning committee are obliged to take into consideration when deciding an application of this type. Although the UD plan has long since been superseded by the ‘Local plan’, the UD plan still remains a saved plan within the framework of the local development plan which forms the basis to Liverpool councils core strategy policy 2012”. In plain English, it meant the same local planning guidelines and safeguards which were in place to protect the vitality and evening economy of neighbouring districts such as Woolton in 2003 (when the Cambos planning application was refused) still applied in 2015 at the time when the application to build a multiscreen cinema at Speke was approved. Now a word of caution if you find the in’s and out’s of planning protocol boring then you might just want to skip this next short paragraph. But for those of you still on-board. Read on! As with any leisure development application the onus is on the developer to clearly demonstrate to the Liverpool planners that their proposals remain within the guidelines of the Local development framework, with particular reference to section E9 Chapters iii & v of the councils unitary development plan, not forgetting the councils obligation to adhere to their own core strategic (policy 21 section 1b) which clearly states the vitality and viability of a small number of districts (which includes Woolton village) will be protected to ensure that they continue to act as a focus to the local community and provide a range of shops and local services. Therefore the councils own UD plan provides on a plate the same tools, fire power and ammunition for the current owners of the Woolton picturehouse to have put a spanner in the works of any Speke multiplex development, just as their predecessors had done to great success during the years before them. As history has shown David Wood and his team at Woolton Picturehouse had an excellent track record in keeping the Speke multiplex at bay during their 14 year tenure at the cinema. In contrast the current family owners and their management team look to have fallen on their faces at the first multiplex fence.In fairness to them [The new owners] when they took ownership of Woolton’s Picturehouse they inherited a far less experienced cinema management team than the previous owner [David Wood] had at his disposal.Before the current owners arrival David Wood’s team at the Picturehouse was assembled from a more experienced and proven workforce, having clocked up 92 years of continuous employment between them on the local cinema circuits, some also having previously worked for David Woods father’s Bedford cinema chain many years ago,with a wealth of cinema know how behind them. However former staff at the cinema inform us that  when the cinema’s new owners were handed the keys to the door, just six months after the Picturehouse had closed due to the untimely death of David Wood, they were led to believe that newcomer jack of all trades Dave Parr was David Woods right hand man at the cinema and was someone who had played a more significant role in the running of the cinema than he actually had, Staff have said if the truth be known  Jack the lad  had in fact played little if any part in the cinema’s 14 year revival during David Woods ownership, having spent 98% of those fourteen years self-employed running his own tv repair business and in the short time he had been employed at the Picturehouse David Wood had made three attempts to replace him. Happy to keep schtum on his glorified new found status, Parr alongside the newbie in-experienced cinema manager collectively took charge to handle the running of the cinema. Rather than recruit the cinema’s original full strength team, it has served their own interests better to discriminate against experienced staff for a lesser inexperienced watered down team, doing so has not only bolstered their own positions it has made the owners more reliant on them and also paved the way for the new management to make room for friends and family at the loss of long serving staff who’s knowledge and experience at the cinema would have been invaluable. Had the new owners been dealt a full hand of cards it seems unlikely they would have tabled a management team to run their business with so little experience between them. The cinema’s new management team appears to have been seeded out of envy, deception and opportunism and lacked the continuity and proven experience of their predecessors to take on the Speke multiplex battle and win. Now that the large scale Speke competitors have entered the fray to poop all over their business, the current Picture house owners have good cause to feel let down. It was no shame or secret back in 2007 that they purchased the business as cinema novices, still wearing blinkers and easily led. Now that the blinkers are off, they can see for themselves that the wannabe’s holding their reigns were also holding big white sticks and may well have led the business over a big white cliff. #Woolileaks2018 Visit the Woolton Picturehouse. With an Eleven screen cinema as new neighbours it is going to need all the support it can get .       
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