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Fight to save iconic black bookshop heads to court

AT RISK: Centerprise Trust Community and Arts Centre

AN ONGOING fight to save one of Britain’s oldest black bookshops and an iconic community centre is to go to court later this year.

Officials at the Centerprise Trust Community and Arts Centre in Dalston, east London warned the centre could close because Hackney Council is to take its trustees to court in October to evict them.

Centerprise’s trustees have called a public meeting for August 29 at 7.30pm and are calling on the black community to help save the centre.

They said the public meeting, to be held at the Kingsland High Street-based Centerprise, would discuss ways of preventing the Council from evicting them and then selling the premises.

In a statement, Centerprise’s representatives said: "The organisation has served the people of Hackney and other Londoners for over 42 years. The Council is taking Centerprise Trustees to court on 15 October 2012 to evict them for no reason at Central London County Court."

Local residents have been up in arms over plans to close the centre, which also runs a restaurant and offers Saturday classes in English, maths and science to local children aged five to 18.

More than 800 people have so far signed an online petition to keep the centre from closing.

A Hackney council spokeswoman told The Voice: "We would much rather that this issue with Centerprise did not end up in court, but the current rent of £10 a week for a double shop-front, two floors and a basement on a busy high street is not a rent level that could continue for any organisation."

The council added: "Over the years the council has offered Centerprise a number of opportunities to apply to be considered for discounted rent under the council’s voluntary and community sector lettings policy. They did not take this up, despite a number of attempts from the council to encourage them to engage with us."

But Centerprise’s Emmanuel Amevor told The Voice last November trustees did not receive a change of rent document the council allegedly sent but were later told the centre had lost the right to protected tenancy.

He added: “We got this building under the Inner City Partnership Fund programme in 1983/84. The building was bought for us after successfully winning a competitive application. Instead of giving us a cheque they bought the building for us.”

Amevor added: “We used to pay what was known as the ‘peppercorn’ rent, which was £10 per week, but I believe this building is ours, so a penny paid to them is a penny too much."

“Now they want to move from peppercorn rent to market rent, which would be £37,000 per year.”

The online petition can be seen at http://www.petitionbuzz.com/petitions/savecenterprise

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