Dawn Butler MP pledges to support Bridge Park community after their ‘hard won battle’ against Brent Council
PUBLISHED: 16:27 22 March 2019
Brent Central’s MP has congratulated Bridge Park’s black community following their first success of a “hard won battle” to safeguard vital land in Stonebridge.
Dawn Butler has pledged to help facilitate mediation with Brent Council which has said it is going for a full trial after losing its summary hearing against the community in the High Courts yesterday.
She hopes to meet with council chiefs “informally” next week.
Brent Council brought forward the 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.
Ms Butler said: “I congratulate the community on a hard won battle. I would not like to see the case go to a full trial. I will continue to do everything I can to help facilitate mediation. And I hope that I will be able to arrange an informal meeting next week.
She added: “Bridge Park was born out of the Brixton riots, becoming a valuable symbol of the unity in Brent where there were no riots.
“The African-Caribbean community in Brent deserve a landmark building which will be there in perpetuity, to be passed from generation to generation, to build on the legacy and create new ones.
“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.”
In the 1980s Leonard Johnson co-founded HPCC in response to growing violence in the capital and decided to establish a community centre on the site of a bus depot recently vacated by Transport for London.
The £1.8m price for the depot, reduced from £3m due to HPCC’s charitable status, was paid for through funding from the GLA (£700,000), the Department for the Environment (£400,000) and £700,000 from Brent.
The land was protected by a covenant and the centre opened by Prince Charles in 1982.
However, in 2012 Brent Council removed the covenant and five years later, in 2017, entered into a conditional land sale agreement with Stonebridge Real Estate Development Ltd, a new subsidiary of the Luxembourg-based General Mediterranean Holdings (GMH).
Two weeks before court proceedings in February cabinet chiefs gave the green light to destroy Bridge Park Community Leisure Centre and replace it with a new “improved” hub which includes a six-lane swimming pool, gym and sports hall.
BPCC has its own vision of a centre of excellence equivalent to a black Canary Wharf with a supermarket, technology, educational and sports centres, community halls and a multi-faith centre.
The community has received high profile support.
England footballer Raheem Sterling sent a tweet in December that said: “@brentcouncil need to answer this! Why are my team continuously getting no response, when I’m trying to help the community (especially the kids) – whilst the council are still trying to sell off a key part of my childhood; Brent Park. Can someone answer this pls?”
Following the court case yesterday Mr Johnson said: “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 they felt “vindicated” adding: “Brent refused to talk to us. We worked with our own resources, working daily to raise and find evidence to back up our case.
“Brent was only ever the custodian of that land. We are allowed to go to trial to make that case.”
A council spokesperson said: “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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