The Centerprise cafe and bookshop has been forced to shut after Hackney council changed their locks on Thursday morning, enforcing a court order.
The council won a cort ruling that Centerprise had to give up possession within seven days from October 16. Centerprise having failed to give up possession, the council were granted a warrant to regain possession.
A notice on the building stated that the warrant of execution was sealed in the High Court of Justice on October 25 and any attempt to enter the premises may amount in criminal offence and result in prosecution
Later, more than 40 residents gathered to discuss the future of the center at an emergency meeting on Thursday at Dalston Trinity Centre.
Emmanuel Amevor, Chief Executive of the Centerprise Trust and Community Centre, told EastLondonLines that he felt Centerprise had not been able to access important documents in their defence on October 16 and that “had seriously harmed” their case.
In response to the council’s action he said: “We haven’t prepared for any legal action for today and everything has now been locked by the council.”
Although residents have expressed their concerns on the possibility of lock change at previous meetings, Amevor had claimed that the council had to postpone the planned eviction once they sent the appeal application. However this does not now appear to have been the case.
A spokesperson for Hackney Council told Eastlondonlines: “Centerprise have failed to comply with the Court’s order requiring them to vacate the premises by 4pm on 23 October 2012. This order was made after a full trial at which the Court heard evidence from both sides and rejected all of Centerprise’s defences to the Council’s claim. Although Centerprise have now sought permission to appeal the Court’s order this does not mean the Court’s order is on hold.”
Amevor said he remained “consciously optimistic” and would take the crisis as an opportunity: “I am not wallowing in self pity. It is the ideas that matter, not the brick and mortar.”
“We are going to fight all the way. I hope in the fullest of time they can release the property to us if we don’t win tomorrow.”
Centerprise has occupied the premises on Kingsland High Street for 42 years but the lease dispute has been ongoing since Hackney council bought the building in 1984.
The council said the peppercorn rent of £10 per week for a building consisting of a double shop-front, two floors and a basement “is not a rent level for any organisation” but the two parties could not come to an agreement for a new rent.
This deadlock over lease renewal negotiations led to court where the council won the case on October 16 and Centerprise were ordered to leave the site and pay £50,000 as an outstanding annual rent from June 2011 as well as legal costs.
Supporter Azaniagem Greenidge, of Tottenham said: “I think the eviction is an act of political intrigue and discrimination on African-Caribbean people that have supported the centre for many years.”