Pentecostal City Mission Church provides home for community groups and foodbank
Jennifer Green at the Church. Picture: Reach Plc/ Tim Clarke
April 6, 2021
Hundreds of West Londoners who depend on a church’s foodbank, after-school club and dementia group are heartbroken by news it will soon be redeveloped into flats.
The Pentecostal City Mission Church in Scrubs Lane is said to provide a lifeline for the working class communities around Harlesden, White City and North Kensington.
In June 2018, developer Fruition Properties received planning permission to demolish it and build a 20-storey block of 85 flats. Twenty of those flats would be let at “affordable” rents while the rest will be sold at market price, planning documents show.
But this planning permission, awarded by the Old Oak Park Royal Development Corporation (OPDC) came with a three-year time limit. If no work is carried out before this point, the developer would have to submit a new planning application.
Fruition is now pushing to start demolition before its deadline in June, and the church’s supporters fear some of the community activities that happen there will be lost.
Artist's impression of what the 20-storey block of flats in Scrubs Lane would look like
Jennifer Green is a local resident who queues for the church’s food bank on Friday mornings with dozens of others.
The 57-year-old, who worked as a book binder until her disability left her unable to work, said, “I go there for food because my family is shielding. It’s a blessing. They do different breads, fruit and vegetables, cheese and potatoes.
“It would be a shame if this happened to the church. I’ve never seen one that does so much for people so I always support it. It’s a poor neighbourhood but everyone helps one another.
“It would be a shame if this happened to the church. There will be nowhere for these people to go.”
The mother-of-two, who has Scoliosis, said her children used to attend the church’s after-school clubs and receive extra tuition for maths and English.
Ms Green added, “And they have classes for the elderly and sessions where they can do some exercise. They deliver food to people. Since Covid-19 a lot of people have been there for food.”
Pentecostal City Mission Church in Scrubs Lane. Picture: Reach Plc/Tim Clarke
The church’s leadership was unwilling to comment while its negotiations with the developer are ongoing, but it is understood that in 2019 it found smaller premises one mile away in Craven Park to relocate to.
This new property comprises only one quarter of its current floor space. Much of the church’s income came from a nursery which closed for months on end due to the pandemic. Moving to the new premises would mean cutting its nursery places from 80 to 25.
Supporters of the church have claimed that Fruition Properties did little to help the church find a suitable new property, which was a condition of the planning permission it received in 2018.
The company responded by saying it has effectively helped the church by allowing it to stay on the site in Scrubs Lane rent free since January 2020.
A spokesperson said, “[The owner] has received no rent since January 2020 equating to a further £162,500 in unpaid rent and in fact the church should have vacated the premises instead of now circulating these lies.
“Fruition Properties’ client, Scrubs Lane Limited, would have been well within its right to call in bailiffs and have the church evicted at any point during these past 12 months, however it has been incredibly accommodating and continues to work tirelessly to find a solution.”
The spokesperson continued, “We are exploring all avenues and have had ongoing discussions with the church about partial demolition, which would allow them to remain in another part of the building, however this has raised health and safety concerns which may not be insurable considering the nursery and church uses.”
The OPDC was set up in 2015 by former London Mayor Boris Johnson with the aim of forming a new local authority to oversee the regeneration of 650 hectares of mostly industrial land around new HS2 and Crossrail stations – a football pitch is typically 0.7 hectares.
The OPDC’s Planning Committee includes several industry experts and councillors from the boroughs of Hammersmith and Fulham, Ealing and Brent.
Owen Sheppard - Local Democracy Reporter