Appeal to government over who owns Isle of Dogs' community centre facing Greenwich
PUBLISHED: 17:48 30 January 2017 | UPDATED: 18:01 30 January 2017
Legal moves to stop developers tearing down a community centre on the Thames waterfront opposite Greenwich Palace to build luxury flats have begun with an appeal to the Sectary of State over who actually owns the site.
A demolition squad moved in today and began uprooting trees next to Island Gardens open space, ready to pull down the Calders Wharf community centre.
Friends of Island Gardens are taking legal advice and have sent a letter in to Communities State Secretary Sajid Javid to challenge ownership.
The centre is public property which was designated by Tower Hamlets council last year as an “asset of community value” under the 2011 Localism Act.
“We’re calling for a full investigation into ownership and how this community asset was passed to a housing association to build luxury flats,” Island Gardens chairman Eric Pemberton told the East London Advertiser.
“We were told it was sold by the council in 2006 to East End Homes—yet we can find no trace of any such sale, nor was it included in any housing stock transfer.”
A planning application was said to have been approved in 2013 to develop Calders Wharf—but campaigners say this has run out, so a fresh application has to be made.
“The centre is registered for community use and only the Secretary of State can sanction its sale,” Mr Pemberton added.
Calders Wharf was originally the terminal of the old North Greenwich railway from Fenchurch Street which was bought by the former London County Council around 1950 and designated for future parkland extension to Island Gardens.
By 1980, the Docklands Development Corporation and the Greater London Council which had replaced the LCC stumped up the cash to build the community centre, which later passed to Tower Hamlets Council.
There are no records of Any subsequent sale to East End Homes, say campaigners.
Even the council isn’t sure. Cllr David Edgar who led housing on the council during the transfer days of 2006 admitted last week he was “not certain if it was transferred”.
Mayor John Biggs told the Advertiser: “I know East End Homes believe it was part of the transfer to the point where they have got planning permission to knock it down. They think it’s theirs.
“But this all happened before I became mayor. I assume it belongs to East End Homes—but there are people who are unhappy with plans to redevelop their community centre and have a right to challenge it.”
East End Homes claims it does own the property and land. Chief executive Paul Bloss insisted: “Calders Wharf was transferred to us in 2006 as part of the Island Gardens transfer. We own the land and community centre and have full planning consent. Consultations were carried out including a public planning enquiry.”
The redevelopment includes a new community centre with social housing.
But Calders Wharf wasn’t included in the council’s public housing handover in 2006, campaigners insist, therefore cannot be used in any redevelopment because of its ‘Assets of Community Value’ designation, agreed by Tower Hamlets Council itself on February 12, 2016.
So Friends of Island Gardens are making an 11th hour bid to stop demolition and say they are preparing to take the issue before the courts.