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Eviction row at Bradford community centre
5:06pm Wednesday 25th June 2014 in News
A charity landlord has changed the locks at dawn at a thriving youth and community centre on a Bradford housing estate.
Staff at Fagley Youth & Community Centre were only alerted when the burglar alarm connected to the manger's home went off shortly before 5am today.
Campaigners claim the eviction over a rent-row was illegal and have won the support of Bradford Council in fighting their corner.
Council leader David Green said as soon as he heard the news he had asked a senior officer to fix up an emergency meeting with Newlands directors to try to negotiate an interim agreement for the use of the community centre.
Councillor Green said: "It's a very heavy handed response by Newlands that does not reflect well on the organisation.
"They have really damaged any relationship they had with that community and potentially that they may wish to have had with the Council. We will do our utmost to make sure that the community and its facilities are protected."
Ward Councillor Ann Wallace (Lib Dem, Eccleshill) has accused Newlands of doing a "landgrab" and steamrolling over anyone who gets in their way.
Cllr Wallace said: "This is certainly not the behaviour of a charity that has the community's interest at heart.
"They are bullies just doing a landgrab and are not going to let anyone or anything get in their way. They are steamrolling over us but we refuse to be flattened.
"Letters the centre was sent from them said money owed for rent had to be paid by the weekend, June 27 so that time had not run out. They were two days early - as far as we're concerned they broke in."
Tomorrow, a meeting of Bradford East Area Committee will look at a recommendation, already on the agenda, for the Council to take on the community centre as an asset.
"This would buy us time to see if we could raise money to buy the centre ourselves," said Cllr Wallace, who added: "Newlands knew this meeting was happening and that's why they locked us out early. It's underhand and diabolical."
Last month, the Telegraph & Argus reported how community centre bosses were shocked to get a rent bill for £15,000 which they claimed was part of a push to get them off site so it could be sold off, potentially making way for a new free school.
Sikh faith organisation, the Khalsa Foundation, is planning on opening an engineering academy there in September - which would six months before the youth and community centre's lease runs out.
Newlands had previously asked for the lease to be surrendered early and invited the centre to move to a new venue half-a mile away in the empty St John's Church.
Staff at the centre and other projects which use it today manned the gates and frantically made phone calls so people would not arrive only to be turned away.
Despite repeated attempts the T&A was not able to get a response from Newlands.
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