On 5th May 1982, a disused London transport building was purchased by the founders of Harlesden Peoples Community Council (HPCC):
In Circa 1980, Leonard Johnson led the Harlesden Peoples Community Council (HPCC),they had a dream to expand the mix of Educational, Social and Commercial development work they were doing in the local community. In order for this to be realised they knew that they would need much larger premises. A COMMUNITY COMPLEX. He knew the Bus Depot was disused and thought to approach London Transport. Leonard mentioned to others that he would try to get the Bus Garage for their vision and was told “….that is impossible! It’s worth £millions. You’re dreaming”.
Not to be put off Leonard approached and entered into discussions with the executives of The London Transport (LT), who had heard about the progressive work of HPCC and in particular Leonard Johnson being praised for preventing a potential ‘Harlesden Riot. ‘
At that time the Land and Bus Depot was being sold for the value of £3 Million. Through a series of meetings, HPCC’s asked for LT’s support in the form of them giving HPCC their backing and an opportunity for HPCC to purchase the Land and the complete disused Depot site. HPCC was asked to present our Community Vision.
OUR DREAM WAS FORMED
Following our presentation to London Transport (LT) they agreed to give us the following:
i) LT would give HPCC first choice on the purchase of the Land & Depot provided we used it for the HPCC vision for the benefit of the local community, subject to us being able to raise the funds;
ii) London Transport would be sympathetic and allow us upto 18 months to come up with funds, subject to our regular progress and funding meetings;
iii) They were so impressed with our work and vision, that whilst the land was being sold for a value of £3Million they agreed that it be both reduced then fixed at a price of £1.8Million, which would help the HPCC project, and allow us to raise the funds required.
HPCC were then able to enter serious discussion with Brent about getting some of our local money back in the form of a grant. Brent doubted our bid would succeed, but had to take us seriously because we had LT’s support. Whilst we felt the site being worth £3 Million represented good value for Brent to grant us the full £1.8Million, they only offered a grant of £700k Following advice we approached both the then GLC and Department of Environment (DOE). This was difficult as Brent would only give us a soft promise and would not formalise the offer until we could prove we could raise the balance of the money. To our surprise both the GLC and DOE adopted the same stance. We now had the promise of the funds but couldn’t prove it as neither party would formalise their offer, this went on for months and now threatened our position with LT.
Leonard had a brilliant idea, he called Lord Young (DOE) and asked for a personal meeting which was agreed. When Lord Young turned up he was surprised to see both Brent and the GLC there as they had also have been invited by Leonard in the same way.
Leonard addressed the group, stating, “You have left HPCC offer until the very last moment, telling us you will not formalise the offer until it was signed off by the other parties, you are now face to face and can all now sign together”. They were without further excuse, left smiling after discussion and exchanges they each signed!
THE HPCC DREAM WAS REALISED
In 1982, The Land and Bus depot valued at £3Million, after being held for the full 18months was then purchased by the HPCC at £1.8 million, with help from Brent Council £700K, the department of Environment £400K and the GLC £700K. Because the HPCC was not viewed as credit worthy it was agreed that Brent would be HPCC’s custodians for the purchase. Then to protect HPCC’s control and interest we asked that a permanent protective covenant be written into the purchase.
In 1983 a further £450,000 was raised to complete the Brent Information Technology Centre. In 1988 the centre was officially opened by the HRH Prince of Wales.
During the first year the centre generated 52% of its own turnover. Brent Council promised annual grants for a period of 5 years. However due to cuts the Council suspended their grant and took over the centre and used it as a college. At a Subsequent Council meeting this decision was over turned by two councillors suggesting that this would cause riots in Stonebridge.
It should be noted that in our time Stonebridge has never had an uprising or riot.
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