The High Court in Kampala has overturned a decision by Kampala Capital City Authority(KCCA) to block Watoto Church Ministries from demolishing the historic Norman Cinema building.
The building along Kampala and Buganga roads housed Noman Cinema, Uganda’s first cinema hall established by Indian businessman, Norman Godinho.
Watoto Church sought to demolish the building and replace it with a 12-storeyed building, a three-star hotel, a 3,000-seater auditorium, a shopping centre and a youth centre.
However, KCCA and the National Physical Planning Board (NPPB) blocked the move by declining to approve the plans, prompting Watoto Church to run to court to seek a judicial review of the decision by the two government entities.
However, in his ruling, acting judge, Douglas Singiza said it was wrong for KCCA to block the demolition of the current Watoto Church reasoning that the building is a national heritage that needs to be protected.
“It is my judgement, that in absence of the any bylaw by the Kampala Capital City Authority listing the Watoto Church as a national heritage, it is unreasonably wrong for the KCCA and the NPPB not to approve the mixed-use development plans of the Watoto church. The idea that they could hide behind the ‘wings’ of the other government bodies to reject the Watoto church and Kampala Playhouse mixed-use development plan was not only illegal but manifestly irrational,” acting judge Singiza ruled.
The acting judge ordered that the decision to reject Watoto Church’s move to construct a new building be reviewed and set aside since it was procedurally illegal and improper.
“A writ of mandamus is issued against the respondents to reconsider the Watoto Church mixed-use development plans application three months from the date of the ruling. The respondents(Watoto Church) are at liberty to consider the existing KCCA physical development planning regulations and guidelines.”
The acting judge however guided that in future, should KCCA wish to declare any property within its geographical limits, a national heritage, a bylaw should first be enacted to give it effect.
“KCCA should, within a period of 3 years, enact a bylaw, listing all the properties within the capital city that should be to be protected as national heritage sites.”