- Tower Hamlets
Centerprise faces an eviction order on Monday as the council rejects its offer of increased rent.
The charity, Centerprise Bookshop and Community Centre, offered £9,000 annual rent in February but had no response from the council.
At a meeting this week, Emmanuel Amevor, Chief Executive of the Centerprise Trust, announced that he has increased the offer to £12,000 last month.
He told the meeting that the council had received the offer and said the request had been passed to the property department.
Today the council replied saying that the offer of “less than £2 per square foot” is substantially lower than the rent paid by eligible voluntary and community groups.
“Their offer is not a fair or acceptable rent for the double shop-front, two floors and a basement on a busy high street, and it would mean Centerprise getting a subsidy from the taxpayer beyond that received by any other organization in the borough.”
The council continued: “Centerprise were given every opportunity but unfortunately, despite the Council’s best efforts this was unsuccessful and Centerprise could not demonstrate eligibility for a new lease at the discounted rent.”
Amevor told the meeting that he wanted to resolve the dispute out of court but he believed the council was not interested in mediation: “The council seem to be giving the impression we are not willing to settle out of court, which is very strange.”
“The idea that they are trying to sort something out is a lie. They just want to go to the court and get us evicted”, he told EastLondonLines.
According to the Centerprise Defence Fund, estimated legal costs to defend the action are £20,000. A fundraising drive has been launched but it has raised only £1,000.
An online petition against the eviction of Centerprise has gathered 1,803 signatures along with 2,000 more on an in-store petition. EastLondonLines reported on the crisis of Centerprise last year.
The 42 year old charity on Kingsland rd which consists of a bookshop, cafe and workshop space, had been paying a peppercorn rent of £10 per week until the withdrawal of funding in 2008. The council said it “is not a rent level that could continue for any organization”.
The centre claims that Hackney council bought the premises for them with a £50,000 grant given to Centerprise in 1984. But the Council asserts they did not purchase the property on behalf of it and Centerprise has never had any legal interest in the property beyond that of a tenant. Amervor says that a past offer to buy the property outright was rejected.
Hackney resident Lee Khrrine, 42, opposes to council’s action: ” It came as a shock as the organisation has been helping lots of individuals for years. I usually pass by when I am on the way to work in the morning and from what I’ve seen Centerprise has a positive impact on helping people who is disadvantaged. An eviction is not fair.”
Theresa White, 53, a life consultant from Dalston, said it was good for Hackney to have Centerprise: “The government is trying to encourage us into this big society but I would like to see some evidence of the government actually contributing, rather than depriving us of initiative. “
“It is so difficult and so expensive but the government is holding all the cards in their hands isn’t it?”
The court hearing is scheduled for next Monday at Central London County Court.