MP's Concern over "Evictions" from Palingswick House

Community organisations make way for West London Free School

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Hammersmith MP Andy Slaughter has expressed grave concern over the "eviction" of 20 charities and community organisations from Hammersmith's Palingswick House to make way for West London Free School.

The organisations, who include advice and support centres for refugees and other vulnerable members of the community, were given a deadline of this week to move out of the building.

All the groups, which are now without funding from the council had to apply for other space and some have now moved to a new community hub at Norland House on the Edward Woods Estate, which has been created by H & F council by converting derelict pram sheds into office space.

However, the groups say that the new offices have not been properly prepared, with access provided by a wooden tunnel, no phone lines and no access to mail services as the site has not been registered with the Royal Mail.

And while some organisations, such as the Iraqi Association, have their own office, others including RASC - the Refugee Advice and Support Centre - and the Kurdish Association have found they are expected to share one desk in an open plan office.

Andy Slaughter has written to the council's chief executive Derek Myers saying: " I am gravely concerned at the way the eviction – this is not too strong a word – of the tenants of Palingswick House is being handled. The haste with which the tenants have been expected to move has been indecent by any standards, and has caused many of them serious problems and considerable expense."

Phil Cooper of the Hammersmith Refugee Forum shares these concerns, saying: " It is worth noting here that a number of the former Palingswick House voluntary groups have been forced to close down as a result of this upheaval. Others will be offering reduced services in an out-of-the-way location where for the first few weeks they will not even have telephone or mail services."

The council sold Palingswick House to West London Free School last year, though the cost of the building itself and the expense involved in converting it from offices to a school has not yet been revealed.

Phil Cooper adds: " Hammersmith and Fulham Council finally got its way this week and cleared the voluntary organisations, half of whom were working with refugees, out of Palingswick House so the property could be handed over to the West London Free School.

"The expression ‘handed over’ is used advisedly as the funding to buy the land and convert the building for the Free School’s use will be coming from the Department of Education i.e. taxpayers’ money.

"Given that the Council said it was selling Palingswick in order to reduce public sector debt, this financial merry-go-round is bizarre."

January 27, 2012