Bosses at a youth and community centre say they were shocked to receive a £15,000 bill from a charity that had asked them to surrender their lease.
The committee that runs Fagley Youth & Community Centre said the bill from Newlands Community Association arrived “out of the blue” and claimed it was part of a push to evict them so the site could be sold off, potentially making way for a new free school.
Centre campaigners claim the bill goes against a rent-free arrangement it had with Newlands. And they fear it will be used as an excuse to remove them if they fail to pay up.
The Telegraph & Argus has already reported how Newlands wanted the centre to voluntarily surrender its lease and move into a modern disused church half a mile away, but that proposal had met with resistance.
And the T&A also revealed a Sikh education trust was on the verge of signing a final funding agreement with the Government so it could open a new engineering academy on the community centre site in September – six months before the lease was due to run out.
Bradford Council, the Fagley site’s previous owner, has now told Newlands it is not minded to lift restrictions it imposed at the time of sale which limit what the land could be sold on for.
Council leader Councillor David Green said: “The Council’s direct involvement was whether or not we were willing to lift a covenant on the land to allow them unrestricted development. A request has been made by Newlands but we were not minded to do so.
“The current use of the site is of great community benefit and we believe that community benefit should be protected.
“The situation around the rent bill is between the centre and Newlands but it does strike me from the information I’ve got that perhaps Newlands is behaving unreasonably in this case. If they wish to come to the Council we will look at whether we can help mediate.”
Iwan Williams, who heads the trading arm of Newlands, would not comment this week but had previously said: “We aren’t throwing them out. We are asking them to voluntarily surrender their lease but they won’t talk to us.”
He also said at that time that St John’s Church was being offered “still for free” as a new venue.
Ward councillor Ann Wallace (Lib Dem) who is also centre board member said: “The Council’s support is positive news but the bill was not expected, it came out of the blue. It is a threat, part of a ploy to force us out and evict us if we don’t pay up.
“The community centre’s board is meeting to decide what we do next but in the meantime we will carry on with our good work here and celebrate what we do.”
This Saturday the centre is having a gala from noon onwards with Fagley’s first May Queen 80-year-old Winifred Kaye putting in a guest appearance.