Victory for Bridge Park Community Centre campaigners as High Court quashes Brent Council's injunction bid over land sale
PUBLISHED: 17:30 21 March 2019 | UPDATED: 17:38 21 March 2019
Campaigners have won the first stage of their battle to stop Brent Council redeveloping the Bridge Park Community Centre.
Brent Council brought forward a summary hearing against the Stonebridge People’s Trust (HPCC), and steering group BPCC, to squash their attempts to restrict the sale of the land in Stonebridge using an old covenant placed on the land in the 1980s.
But the council today failed to win the injunction against the group it had hoped to secure, meaning the case will go to a full trial.
Master Rhys, returning his judgment this morning at the Royal Courts of Justice, denied the council the opportunity to appeal, saying there was “no prospect of success” if it tried.
He referred the case to the Attorney General, suggesting the government’s legal advisor be given two months to allow ”time to form some view on whether or not he wishes to intervene – then the clock starts ticking again”.
There was an intake of breath in the room as it dawned on members and supports of BPCC, and their legal defender, that they would “live to fight another day”.
Stephen Cottle, barrister at the Garden Court Chambers representing HPCC, added: “It’s the right result.”
There were tears, hugs and congratulations outside the court room.
Carolyn Downs, chief executive of Brent Council, said the council had prepared a statement.
A spokesperson confirmed the council would be taking the case to full trial.
Leonard Johnson, co-founder of HPCC, said: “It’s a fair result from the judge. It’s time for the black community to come together as one as a result of this case.
“Brent Council needs to work with the community now in order to develop [the centre] with us, not sell it to a developer and make the community pay to use it.”
Jay Mastin, chair of BPCC, said: “It’s been a momentous day. It’s taken us two years of Brent denying that we had standing, even able to bring a case denying our interest.
“Brent refused to talk to us. We worked with our own resources, working daily to raise and find evidence to back up our case. We have been vindicated. Brent was only ever the custodian of that land. We are allowed to go to trial to make that case.”
He added: “We are one step closer to our vision by 2030 to build a fully regenerated centre of excellence, equivalent to a black Canary Wharf.”
Trevor Dacosta, HPCC co-founder, added: “We’ve still got a long way to go but I’m happy with the way this has gone. I hope we use this opportunity to bring a positive change for the community.
“Bridge Park, in its creation, was a place to get youth off the streets. It didn’t quite achieve that. We’ve learnt a lot since then and hope we can achieve that now. Women are ageing prematurely because of a mass exodus of young people dying prematurely.”
Shirley Wilson, of BPCC, said: “Equality, rights and justice must reign for the community.”
Cheryl Phoenix added: “It’s brilliant – it just shows the community has a future and they will fight. Brent is selling off our land. We have to hold on to this court ruling. Our interests are not [Brent Council’s] interests. We are going full throttle. We have to, we’ve got no choice.”
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.
Cabinet chiefs gave the green light to demolishing the building for a new leisure centre just a fortnight before it was due in court on February 27 over the contested land.
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.”