The Kilburn Times has followed up the Wembley Matters story today LINK and secured this statement from Fruition Properties:
Fruition Properties (Scrubs Lane Ltd), owners of the site said the developer has been requesting vacant possession since November 2020 and was "within its property rights", to take back possession of the building.
“Despite its right to take possession immediately, it has offered one month’s notice being mindful of ongoing activities in the nursery, allowing for a smoother transition.
“We are aware of the sensitivities of the site and have tried to be accommodating in our approach and hope to come to an amicable resolution.”
From Harlesden Neighbourhood Forum
On the corner of Harrow Road and Scrubs Lane, the City Mission Church has been part of the community for years. The Church, Nursery, food bank, and many other services (mainly aimed at the BAME community) are in trouble. Despite being recognised as an Asset of Community Value (ACV) by Brent Council, their property-developer landlords have given them all notice to quit by next FRIDAY, 5th NOVEMBER!
Harlesden Neighbourhood Forum is doing all we can to support the church, but an extensive list of other residents and community groups can help the fight. Please go to https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/WRJZCSK to register your support.
PLEASE DO THIS WITHOUT DELAY.
In 2018 Property developers Fruition Properties gained planning permission to build a 20 storey block of flats on the church site. They promised to provide space for the church and the nursery within the new building. This year that planning permission expired.
The developers have discussed the Old Oak and Park Royal Development Corporation (OPDC) as they, notthe London Boroughs of Brent or Hammersmith & Fulham, are the planning authority. As is usual, these discussions are cloaked in secrecy, so quite why and quite why so quickly the developers want the church gone is unclear. We don’t know whether a new church or nursery in any new planning application is on the table.
The church premises straddles two boroughs, Brent and Hammersmith &Fulham. Andy Slaughter MP for Hammersmith is taking the lead, along with Dawn Butler MP . Kensal Green Councillors Kelcher, Chan, and Hector are aware of the problem. Councillor Kelcher is Chair of Planning at Brent and sits on the OPDC’s Planning Committee.
The petition is organised by Robin Brown, a retired town planner and coordinator of the Grand Union Alliance (representing most of the community groups affected by developments in the OPDC area and HS2) and Professor Jennifer Robinson, an expert in urban development at UCL.
In his presentation to the OPDC Planning Committee, Rev Desmond Hall described the activities of the City Mission Church:
The PCM ministers to an average congregation of around about 250 people but on a Sunday, we may have about 700 to a thousand people attending from the different churches and the different faith groups that worship at that site. The space offers denominal churches servicing black ethnic minorities; we have Portuguese, Brazilian, Nigerian, Ghanaian and Philippians. It’s a cacophony of cultures that come together at 2 Scrubs Lane. A nursery with a large intake of the national educational grant. Most of our children come under NEG places. We have a supplementary school that is thriving and helping to promote higher education for our children in the borough. We have musical educational classes to help develop talent of children and young people linked to local schools. We have an elders program. As you know Scrubs Lane, College Park, there is a widening sector of elderly people; many times they tell us they are prisoners in their own homes. We offer facilities for elderly people to come out and engage with other elders. We recently set up a new dementia project, which was very helpfully supported by Brent and Age UK.
The church says that currently, much effort has been put into maintaining mutual support and care during the COVID pandemic and its aftermath, including the provision through its food bank of sustenance for some 500 persons every week. This is the harsh reality of daily life in this low-income neighbourhood, something that the church struggles with on behalf of the community. It is now widely recognised that deprived and BAME communities have been disproportionally affected by the pandemic. COVID interruptions to the nursery, which provides the financial basis for the church, have caused financial pressures and rental arrears: as a commercial undertaking this ought to qualify for protection under the current national COVID measures for commercial rental properties.
In correspondence with Wembley Matters contributor Philip Grant, Cllr Matt Kelcher said:
I can confirm that I fully support the local church and want them to stay. Fundamentally, this is a legal dispute between the two parties (tenant and landlord) but I do think there are things we can all do to put pressure on the developer.
I have discussed this with the senior team at OPDC, and am also working with my colleagues on the H and F side (this is one of those strange buildings which has entrances which open onto both boroughs).
The owners of the building did have planning permission for a co living space which would re-provide a space for the church and a nursery when developed. However, they never started work on this and the permission has expired. Therefore, in my view the status quo should remain in place and the church and nursery should continue to operate until a new permission for development is given.
OPDC has also made it clear that any application brought forward by the developer of the site would need to include re-provision for a church and nursery to be successful. Brent has also designated the nursery as a community asset to back this up.
Therefore, I do think the two local bodies are doing what they can to put moral pressure on the developer, but also show them that they wouldn’t be able to develop the site and extract any extra profit from it unless they come to an accommodation with the community. But with no other planning application being submitted there isn’t anything they can directly do right now to block the eviction in my understanding (happy to hear ideas to the contrary).