Hundreds fill Bridge Park leisure centre to stop Brent Council selling off community's vital land
PUBLISHED: 11:26 11 December 2018 | UPDATED: 11:26 11 December 2018
Hundreds of supporters packed a Stonebridge leisure centre to let the council know their community centre won't be sold and destroyed without a fight.
Members of the Save Bridge Park Campaign, formed by Bridge Park Community Council (BPCC), held a public meeting on Sunday afternoon at the Bridge Park Community Leisure Centre, in Harrow Road, to gather support.
Speakers, including Bridge Park co-founder Leonard Johnson, and BPCC chair Jay Mastin roused the crowd with impassioned speeches and urged them to donate so they have a chance of winning a High Court battle with Brent Council.
A massive fundraising drive has started to fund a legal fight, with £25,000 already raised.
Mr Mastin said the meeting was “about the legals” adding: “Many times we’ve gone to represent ourselves to local authorities, we’ve marched, we sent in petitions, and despite what people say, they are still proceeding with the sale.
“The only way we can block them is how we block them at the moment and that’s with the might of the law.”
Black Child Agenda founder, Cheryl Phoenix, whose son was stabbed two years ago, said the crime “cycle needs to break”, before adding: “We as black people need this building, we as people need to do what we need.”
Brent Council is to apply for a summary hearing to lift restriction that the land registry has placed on Bridge Park after BPCC successfully applied for protection on the land in August 2017.
In June 2017, Brent Council entered into a conditional land sale agreement with Stonebridge Real Estate Development Ltd, a new subsidiary of the Luxembourg-based General Mediterranean Holdings (GMH), for the sale of Bridge Park Complex land.
The plans include a hotel, retail space and new homes in the empty Unisys office next door to the site, already owned by GMH, and a new £12.25million replacement sports centre, with a gym, sauna and swimming pool.
However, a strict condition of the sale is that the land must be free of all interests.
Adding her support to the group, Brent Central’s MP Dawn Butler urged the crowd to fill in the questionnaires, with cries of “I never got my letter!” when she told them Brent Council had only received 50 responses to the “thousands of letters they sent out.”
She told the Brent&Kilburn Times: “Bridge Park was born out of the Brixton riots becoming a valuable symbol of the unity in Brent where there were no riots.
“Far too often we lose community centres and then wonder why our kids are out on the streets.
“We need centres where generations can get together and grow and where businesses can start and flourish.
“I understand the argument that Bridge Park didn’t seem to be well run or run by the community for years.
“On Sunday the community, made up of all generations, came together to declare that they are ready to stand together to run a community centre. It was great to see the activism and enthusiasm in our community.
“There’s a desperate need for a centre of excellence in Brent. I am fully behind a centre of excellence professionally run by the community.
“A generational community hub for all; an educational place where people can work, rest and play.”
Cllr Margaret McLennan, deputy leader of Brent Council, said: “On several occasions the council has offered to work on the redevelopment project with members of the community, however, they refused.
“This was even before Mr Leonard Johnson started a legal process to claim ownership of council land.
“Whatever the court decides, it doesn’t change the fact that we are fully committed to working with the local community to ensure that any proposals taken forward are done so with the aim of improving the lives of our residents.
“Carrying out such a project is not a straight forward process and this application to the court is to clear up a few legal matters.
“By resolving this as quickly as possible we can move forward and deliver the much needed new community centre, affordable homes and new jobs.”
To sign the petition to save Bridge Park visit bridgeparkcomplex/urgent-petition