Centerprise told to leave after losing battle in court

Centerprise. Pic_ Christy Lam

Centerprise has lost its legal battle against Hackney council. The London Central County court announced on Tuesday that the eviction should proceed within seven days.

Emmanuel Amevor, Chief Executive of the Centerprise Trust and Community Centre, told EastLondonLines that they would appeal before this Friday to hopefully postpone the planned eviction.

Last week EastLondonLines reported a failed negotiation between charity, which has been running for 42 years, and the council. Despite public support, including a total of 3831 signatures on online and in-store petition, the council won their case at London Central County Court yesterday.

Judge Lydiard ordered the charity to pay £50,000 in outstanding annual rent from June 2011 and also to contribute towards the legal costs incurred in the battle.

Amevor commented on Centerprise website: “This is a very sad day for the Dalston community and the wider Hackney and London Community who have been served so well by Centerprise. After the war there is peace but we don’t believe Hackney Council understand the language of peace.”

Although Amevor (director since 1994) called the court result a “setback” he was still optimistic: “The judge in his wisdom decided to do the council a favour and take the argument they put forward to support the eviction, but I don’t think that’s the end. We are talking about 42- years of excellent work to Dalston community and until the termination of the appeal we intend to continue our work here.”

Amevor admitted that the trust had financial difficulties, calling the Council’s demand “more than ridiculous”.

The charity, which consists of a bookshop, cafe and workshop space, has been paying a peppercorn rent of £10 per week. The council said an annual rent of £520 for a double shop-front, two floors and a basement “is not a rent level of any organisation.”

The council asserts they have no intention of selling the property and it is committed to ensuring that it is used by a voluntary or community group to provide services to the people of Hackney.

During the two-day hearing Hackney council accused Centerprise of not responding to the Section 25 notice – a minimum of six months notice for termination of lease. The charity argued that they had not received any notice, hence could not reply, but the judge said the tenant had been deemed to have received it once the legal notice was sent.

Failure to communicate has often happened in the dispute over the lease renewal between two parties. Before the court hearing the spokesperson for Hackney council said that Centerprise had failed to adequately engage with them over several years regarding a new lease while the centre said the council was not interested in mediation.

Lorna Duhaney, 54, who attended a workshop in the centre yesterday, was unhappy with the outcome: “It is my first time in Centerprise but since I have been sitting here I can see a variety of people coming here. I can’t understand why the council is taking it over when the place has been running and serving the community really well. They just raised the rent to a ridiculous level so that the organisation has to leave.”

A public meeting will be held on Friday to discuss the future of Centerprise.

For more information go here or click to sign the petition.

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