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Court victory for community

WINNERS: Campaigners celebrate after winning in the rst stage of their legal battle to save Bridge Park Community Centre (Photo credit: Thabo Jaiyesimi)

CAMPAIGNERS ARE celebrating victory in the first stage of their legal battle to stop a council in north west London redeveloping what has been described as Europe’s largest black community centre.

Brent MP Dawn Butler and Manchester City footballer Raheem Sterling are among the high profile supporters who have backed the local black community in their efforts to stop Brent Council selling off the Bridge Park Community Centre to private developers who want to turn it into luxury housing.

The council brought a summary hearing against the Stonebridge People’s Trust and the Bridge Park Community Council Steering Group in an attempt to squash their efforts to restrict the sale of the land in Stonebridge.

But last week the council failed to win the injunction it had hoped to secure, meaning the case will go to a full trial.

“Brent Council were trying to say that we have no interest in the land and they removed the covenant that protected that land from being built on and sold to anyone. They had no right to do that.

“For a judge to see our argument and rule in our favour was brilliant. They are behaving as though we have no legal right over a building that first of all belonged to Transport for London, but which the local community raised the £1.8 million to purchase it and then a further £400,000 to develop it into what we see standing today.”

Phoenix added: “Brent Council has closed down almost every single youth and elderly facility in Brent. Bridge Park is the last one standing. Gun and knife crime in the area is rife, as with many parts of London.

COMMUNITY

“But you can’t say that you’re serving a community, but then taking community money to sue the very community that you claim to serve, taking them to the High Court over a building that we want to keep to serve our community which they haven’t done. “


CAMPAIGN: The ght is on to keep the Bridge Park Community centre open

Brent Council’s plan had been to allow General Mediterranean Holdings to build a four-star hotel, office block and 600 open market flats worth more than £800 million.

Only five per cent of the flats were earmarked as affordable housing. But following the council’s June 2017 decision to sell the land to allow his development to happen, volunteers, professionals and business owners from the black community grouped together to fight the plans.

They formed the Save Bridge Park Campaign, which was led by the Bridge Park Community Council Steering Group (BPCC). In August 2017, the BPCC made an application to the Land Registry to restrict the council from selling Bridge Park.
BPCC made several offers to negotiate with Brent Council.

However, campaigners said the council decided not to come to the negotiating table, instead using council funds to take the BPCC to the High Court.

"Brent Council brought the case to the high court hoping to get the August 2017 restriction thrown out so the land sale could go ahead. But last week, a judge ruled against the council and said the issue must go to a full trial.

The council was refused permission to appeal against the decision. Phoenix said she believes that community groups across the country could take heart and apply lessons from the BPCC’s court victory.

She said: “Marching and petitioning all has a place. But at the end of the day, no matter how much you march, no matter how much you scream and shout, the law is still what everything boils down to.

“So, I would say to other organisations and groups, look at what we did, take a leaf out of this book, use the court system and go all the way. We did have to use our own resources, many people didn’t want to support us in the beginning.

“But once information started filtering out about maintaining what had been achieved 35 years ago and that we had a right to fight for it, people got on board.”

A Brent Council spokesperson said: “Our intention has always been to work with all of the Stonebridge community to develop a new Bridge Park Centre with better leisure, community, employment and business spaces for local people.

“Today’s decision just means we go to a full hearing so that more evidence can be provided. Our position has not changed as we have said all along that we would prefer to sit down with the Stonebridge Community Trust to have a conversation about the future of the site.”

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