In Circa 1980 the Leonard Johnson lead the Harlesden Peoples Community Council (HPCC) and 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 would need much larger premises A COMMUNITY COMPLEX. He knew the Bus Depot was disused and thought to approach them. Leonard mentioned he would try to get the Bus garage for their vision and was told “….that is impossible it’s worth £millions your 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 overting 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 they agreed to give us the following:
- 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;
- London Transport would be sympathetic and allow us upto 18 months to come up with funds, subject to our regular progress and funding meetings;
- 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, this would help allow us 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 go value for Brent to grant us the full £1.8Million they only offered a grant of £700,000.00. 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 it was agreed. When Lord Young turned up he was surprised to see both Brent and the GLC there also have been invited by Leonard in the same way. Leonard then said “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 1980, The disused Stonebridge Bus depot valued at £4.2 Million was forsale. Following a presentation by Leonard Johnson and HPCC it was agreed that it be held for 24 months to allow the purchase by the HPCC at a reduced £1.8 million, using the Inner Urban Areas Program : Grants from Brent Council £700K, the department of Environment (DoE) £400K and the GLC £700K. Because the HPCC was only setup as a co-operative it was not in a position to hold Community Assets it was agreed that the application would be done in HPPCC’s name and 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 addition, Brent agreed once HPCC was properly constituted complete control and responsibility of the freehold would be transferred to HPCC’s new organisation.
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 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 black councillors suggesting that this would cause riots in Stonebridge, NW London.
WHERE ARE WE NOW
Brent Council cabinet members approved a deal to sell public land, which includes the Bridge Park Community Leisure Centre, to Luxembourg-based General Mediterranean Holdings (GMH), whose chairman Nadhmi Auchi is a billionaire.
It is now their intention to attempt to sell the land and build a new development the full details of which are unconfirmed but we understand includes upto 600 residential flats (only 30 of which are affordable), ‘Le Royal’ Hotel (4 star), a public Gym and National Standard Swimming Pool.
Our Bridge Park Complex currently has many facilities Educational, Social, Technology and Commercial which Brent Council has seen fit to run down, over price and or restrict access the use.
The Bridge Park Complex belongs to us the community and should remain in the control HPCC. Stonebridge Community Trust (HPCC) Ltd a company Limited by guarantee with charitable objects are successors to the original Harlesden Peoples Community Council (HPCC) trading under BPCC Steering Group.
At a public meeting to save Bridge Park head of the Council Mohammed Bhutt stated, he would halt the sale of Bridge Park and invite Leonard Johnson and his team to talks with the CEO about the development.
June 2017 – Leonard Johnson (HPCC) and group of BPCC volunteers were invited and met with the head of the Council Mohammed Bhutt, CEO Brent Council Carolyn Downs along with a number senior staff. In total two informal meeting took place, where Brent put forward offers of management of the New Gym along with the possibility of a provision for ownership of two separate buildings to host our community vision.
Whilst we were very interested in these offers it was made clear that any offer would depend on us having time to scrutinise the detail and would have to run separate to us stating clearly our interest in Bridge Park. It was during the second meeting that the Leader informed us they have decided to proceed with the sale of Bridge Park that day! – We felt this went against Brent public promise to halt the sale. Following that 2nd meeting BPCC decided to reactivate our application to the Land Registry and our public campaign.
August 2017 – We successfully entered a RX1 application with the Land Registry to establish our interest. To prevent the conditional sale of the land.
Discussions are taking place around entering into a form of negotiated settlement whilst Brent also threatens escalation. Either way following Legal Counsel’s opinion we feel the evidence, promises and facts support our position.
We need to continue the message to Brent Councillors:
“Our community has much greater socio-economic needs than a Gym and Swimming pool”
We need you to continue to give your support by attending the public meetings so that you can be kept abreast of the developments. We need you to register your attendance by ensuring you leave your name and contact details.
We need your help to raise funds.
Please donate visit: www.gofundme.com/bridgepark