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Bridge Park battle ends as judge rules Brent Council is ‘sole owner’ of the leisure centre and land

PUBLISHED: 18:07 01 October 2020 | UPDATED: 18:57 01 October 2020

Bridge Park community after winning Brent Council's injunction against them in 2019. Picture: Nathalie Raffray

Bridge Park community after winning Brent Council's injunction against them in 2019. Picture: Nathalie Raffray

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The battle for Bridge Park has come to an end with a judge ruling in Brent Council’s favour.

Michael Green QC returned his verdict today (October 1), declaring the council as the “sole legal and beneficial owner” of Bridge Park Community Leisure Centre in Harrow Road.

The verdict follows a nine-day trial in July between Brent Council, Leonard Johnson and Harlesden People’s Community Council (HPCC).

Mr Green also granted an injunction against any claims on the land, meaning the council has the green light to sell a majority of the site to Luxembourg-based General Mediterranean Holdings (GMH).

Mr Green said in his report: “While I have been somewhat critical of the defendants’ strategy of opposition to Brent’s proposals in relation to Bridge Park, I am saddened that it has been necessary for this dispute to be determined by me in a long judgment that deals with the legal position in relation to the ownership of Bridge Park.

“The fact that I am delivering this judgment means that the mediation and settlement talks have failed to reach an outcome satisfactory to both parties.”

The issue dates back to 1981, when Mr Johnson, founder of HPCC, discovered a bus depot was being sold by London Transport.

He had a vision of transforming it into a community centre to help calm tensions and quell the threat of riots, but needed council support to buy it.

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The judge rejected all of Mr Johnson’s legal arguments to ownership or rights to the property through his lawyer’s constructive trust and charitable trust arguments.

While he praised Mr Johnson’s vision, he criticised his “significant change of position” at the end of trial when he said Brent had promised HPPC a lease with an option to buy the freehold, of which there was no evidence.

“I totally understand that Bridge Park was Mr Johnson’s conception and that the critical aspect of it, if it was to work and the riots were to be avoided, was that it would be run and managed by the local community for the local community without any direct involvement of Brent,” he said.

But the building, he added, was “held beneficially by Brent for its statutory purposes which are essentially to act in the best interests of the community, as I believe Brent is striving to do with its proposals for Bridge Park.”

Cllr Muhammed Butt, leader of Brent Council, said: “It’s great that the court has made the legal position over the ownership of Bridge Park absolutely clear.

“We’ve always said that whatever the outcome of the court case, our door remains open to everyone in the community to discuss the future of Bridge Park and that absolutely remains the case.

“What this result means is that we can now get back to work in delivering on the promise of unleashing the potential that’s been trapped for far too long in this treasured but crumbling site.

“This is the chance we’ve all been waiting for to come together as a community and finally revitalise this invaluable facility.

“If you want to work with us on the future facility, please do get in touch.”

HPCC has been contacted.


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