A community centre that faced eviction over a dispute relating to rent is now back on speaking terms with Hackney Council.
Last week, EastLondonLines reported that Centerprise community centre was under threat of legal action from the council and potential eviction.
Centerprise say the property was bought on their behalf in 1983 with £50,000 of grant money awarded to them. However, the money was paid directly to the landlord by Hackney Council, which now says it legally own the property.
The center has been paying a peppercorn rent of £10 per week since then, and lost council funding in 2008. The council say the arrangement is “not a rent level that could continue for any organisation”.
But following a community campaign supported by Hackney MP Diane Abbott and Equalities Minister Lynne Featherstone, legal action was dropped and Hackney Council has proposed Centerprise apply for subsidised rent under its voluntary and community sector policy.
The council claims this has been offered in the past and that Centerprise failed to respond “despite a number of attempts from the Council encouraging them to engage with us.” They added: “if Centerprise makes an application, we will consider it when we receive it.
Yet Emmanuel Amevor, Chief Executive of the Centerprise Trust, has described difficulties in establishing an “amiable” dialogue regarding the recent dispute. Both sides complain of a failure in communication.
Nevertheless, Amevor was in “high spirits” following the meeting with council officers on Tuesday, congratulating the community for its efforts at a meeting at the centre’s Kingsland Road base.
“We’ve done well galvanizing ourselves … we could have lost the place last Friday,” he said.
“The community came out in full force. Without your support, we all would have been out on the street.”
Amevor said community pressure was a key influence on the council’s decision to negotiate, but also told attendees about a “powerful” letter sent by Featherstone to the Chief Executive of Hackney Council.
It is believed the letter focused on the council’s failure to produce an Equality Impact Assessment on the potential closure of Centerprise, which has provided valuable community services for over 40 years.
Other supporters of Centerprise included Diane Abbott, MP for Hackney North and Stoke Newington and Councillor Michelle Gregory, who represents Dalston Ward.
Despite this breakthrough, Amevor still wants answers relating to the tenure of the property, asking: “What happened to the £50,000 awarded to us? We never saw it.”
Discussions between between the two parties will begin with a further meeting next week, and a resolution could be achieved within six weeks.