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'Oranges and lemons' pledge for a public space at St Clement's is pipped at the post in Mile End

PUBLISHED: 09:00 20 March 2019 | UPDATED: 09:49 20 March 2019

Tower Hamlets mayor John Biggs met St Clement's families... but couldn't sign a pledge to pay for their community space. Picture: Mike Brooke

Tower Hamlets mayor John Biggs met St Clement's families... but couldn't sign a pledge to pay for their community space. Picture: Mike Brooke

Mike Brooke

Families living in St Clement's housing at Mile End invited Tower Hamlets mayor John Biggs to sign an "oranges and lemons" pledge to secure their own community space now in danger of being sold off.

Iconic John Denham House with its victorian clock tower landmark in the Mile End Road. Picture: Joe LordIconic John Denham House with its victorian clock tower landmark in the Mile End Road. Picture: Joe Lord

But he wouldn’t sign the giant ‘orange’ served up with homemade lemonade to make sure the council sticks to its promise of £1.2million to pay for the space in the iconic John Denham building.

There’s snag, he revealed. The cash is in the bank earmarked for St Clement’s, but it can’t be shifted yet.

The original transaction between Boris Johnson who was mayor of London at the time and the developers was that it must be sold on the open market, which is a bitter blow to the new St Clement’s community.

So last night’s ‘signing of the orange’ by Mayor Biggs at the former Victorian workhouse with ‘oranges and lemons’ banners was squeezed.

St Clement's householders call for a public community space. Picture: East London Community Land TrustSt Clement's householders call for a public community space. Picture: East London Community Land Trust

“I don’t want to sign an undertaking which we can’t deliver,” he told the East London Advertiser.

“The space should have been given as part of the original planning application, but the City Hall transaction in 2012 was badly drafted, which means the developers are able to sell off the facility. There’s a risk it could be lost and someone else will buy it.”

The families joined community leaders from the east London branch of Citizens UK civic action network which secured part of St Clement’s site in Mile End Road as Britain’s first urban land trust development. A community space was included in the 2012 planning consultations.

Negotiations by the East London Community Land Trust have been going for a year with Tower Hamlets Council and the GLA to sort it out, after the developers put a £1.5m price tag on the building.

Land trust member Bethan Lant... Land trust member Bethan Lant... "There's a strong feeling round here that the building should be part of the community as always been. Picture: Mike Brooke

Mum-of-two Bethan Lant, a land trust board member who moved into St Clement’s last summer, explained: “We don’t think there’s as much paperwork holding up the deal as the mayor thinks.

“The money is committed to St Clement’s for community use, so developing the John Denham building as a community asset should be within the purpose and spirit of what the money is intended for.

“But we are disappointed we weren’t given the building as there’s a strong feeling round here that it should be part of the community as always been.”

The land trust fears losing the space if its offer to buy it with the council cash isn’t accepted or another buyer gets it first.

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