'Community centre belongs to the public and cannot be sold', say campaigners

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: Fagley Community Centre campaigners, from left front, Bob Griffiths, Councillor Ann Wallace and Matthew Graham, pictured with centre users Fagley Community Centre campaigners, from left front, Bob Griffiths, Councillor Ann Wallace and Matthew Graham, pictured with centre users

A youth and community centre at the heart of a Bradford estate is refusing to move out early to make way for a new school.

The landlord, Newlands Community Association, wants the committee at Fagley Youth and Community Centre in Fagley Road to voluntarily surrender its lease before it officially runs out next March, but the committee is determined to stay put until the bitter end, and beyond, if it can.

The Department for Education has already approved the opening of the new Khalsa Engineering Academy as a Free School and the Khalsa Education Trust is on the verge of signing the Government’s final funding agreement so it can open in September.

Ward councillor Ann Wallace (Lib Dem, Eccleshill), who is also on the centre’s organising committee, has denied its allegations that the building was crumbling and not fit for purpose.

“They want us out so they can sell it, but we believe the building isn’t Newlands’ to sell, it belongs to the people of Fagley,” she said.

The committee is now trying to put together evidence of the centre’s ownership in the belief the building was fundraised for by the local community and still belongs to them.

But Iwan Williams, who heads the trading arm of Newlands, is insistent it owns the building.

“We won’t be renewing the centre’s lease because the building is not fit for purpose,” he said. “We aren’t throwing them out. We are asking them to voluntarily surrender their lease but they won’t talk to us.

“We are offering them a new venue – still for free – that more people will use and won’t be a target for vandals.”

But the move to St John’s Church, half-a-mile away next to a busy road, is not winning over users of the centre, which is surrounded by a wildlife park and sports courts backed by Big Lottery money.

The committee showed the Telegraph & Argus a document signed by Newlands’ former chief executive officer Tony Holdich that he would not sell, transfer or lease the site to anyone else before 2020 without the Lottery’s approval.

Mr Williams said it was the first he had heard of such an agreement.

According to Bradford Council’s website no plans for a change of use or to build a new school on the community site have been submitted as yet.

A spokesman for the Khalsa Education Trust said any details about the plans for the Fagley site had to come from the Department for Education.

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