No pa­per­work, no right to build, say pro­test­ers

Rid­dle of the ‘miss­ing’ deal fires up cam­paign against park de­vel­op­ment

The Wharf - - News - To sign the pe­ti­tion go to tower-ham­lets-coun­cil-save-is­landgar­dens-from-de­vel­op­ment Pippa Allen-Kin­ross

Ares­i­dents group is threat­en­ing le­gal ac­tion in a dis­pute over who owns a com­mu­nity cen­tre that is about to be de­mol­ished in Is­land Gar­dens.

More than 3,000 peo­ple have signed a pe­ti­tion started by The Friends Of Is­land Gar­dens call­ing for an in­ves­ti­ga­tion into Tower Ham­lets Coun­cil’s trans­fer of Calders Wharf Com­mu­nity Cen­tre to in­de­pen­dent hous­ing as­so­ci­a­tion Eas­tend Homes (EEH).

The com­mu­nity cen­tre in Saunders Ness Road was des­ig­nated as an As­set Of Com­mu­nity Value by the coun­cil in Fe­bru­ary 2016 but de­mo­li­tion work on the cen­tre is due to be­gin this month af­ter EEH and Telford Homes were granted per­mis­sion to build apart­ments and a new com­mu­nity cen­tre on the site.

How­ever, the Friends Of Is­land Gar­dens is dis­put­ing whether EEH has any rights over the cen­tre.

Ac­cord­ing to the group, the land is part of Is­land Gar­dens, and so was trans­ferred to the guardian­ship of Tower Ham­lets Coun­cil in 1972.

Al­though the coun­cil in­sists the land was in­cluded in a trans­fer to EEH in 2006, the cam­paign­ers say no pa­per­work has ever been seen to sup­port this.

Friends Of Is­land Gar­dens chair­man Eric Pem­ber­ton said: “We have spent four years try­ing to get to the bot­tom of how EEH ac­quired Calders Wharf. We can’t find any record of it. As far as we are con­cerned, there is no writ­ten proof.

“It just looks like a land grab. It’s been cov­ered in great se­crecy.”

A spokes­woman for Tower Ham­lets Coun­cil said: “Calders Wharf Com­mu­nity Cen­tre is not a Tower Ham­lets Coun­cil-owned build­ing. It is now owned by Telford Homes and was sold by EEH to them through a law­ful process. “The de­vel­op­ment will not have any im­pact on the park and no sec­tions of the park will be closed.” Plans for the site in­clude con­struc­tion of a four-storey build­ing that will pro­vide a new com­mu­nity cen­tre as well as 25 flats. The new build­ing will be 100sq m larger than the cur­rent cen­tre. EEH chief ex­ec­u­tive Paul Bloss said: “There is a very good news story here about how a de­crepit build­ing can be re­placed with a pur­pose-built com­mu­nity fa­cil­ity avail­able to all, with­out re­course to pub­lic sub­sidy.

“The site was trans­ferred to EEH by Tower Ham­lets Coun­cil in 2006 as part of the trans­fer of the Is­land Gar­dens es­tates.

“The es­tates were trans­ferred to en­able EEH to un­der­take im­prove­ments and re­pairs and build new af­ford­able homes. This so­cial pur­pose is why it is re­ferred to as a trans­fer rather than a sale.

“The tem­po­rary trans­fer to Telford Homes does in­volve a pur­chase price. This is so that the money re­ceived by EEH for the site from Telford Homes can be used to fund the cost of build­ing the new com­mu­nity cen­tre.

“When this is com­plete, the con­tract re­quires Telford Homes to trans­fer the com­mu­nity cen­tre and land back to the EEH.”

When asked why only 19% of the new prop­er­ties have been ear­marked as af­ford­able hous­ing, Mr Bloss said: “There are cur­rently no homes on the site. Our scheme will pro­vide four new af­ford­able homes. The bal­ance of the af­ford­able pro­vi­sion on the site, re­quired by the plan­ning con­sent, is made up by the new com­mu­nity cen­tre.

“So, a di­lap­i­dated build­ing is re­placed by a new com­mu­nity cen­tre and four fam­i­lies get af­ford­able new homes. Isn’t that good news?”

How­ever, cam­paigner Glo­ria Thienel de­scribed Mr Bloss’ com­ments as “to­tal rub­bish”.

She said: “We had the com­mu­nity cen­tre in­spected. It’s not di­lap­i­dated. It was al­lowed to be run down.

She claimed: “This is a land grab. The land was not trans­ferred, there was no pa­per­work to say it was trans­ferred and I will stand up in court and say that. We have been fight­ing this since day one and we will keep fight­ing.”

The site of the new com­mu­nity cen­tre on Calders Wharf

Eric Pem­ber­ton

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