In circa 1980, Leonard Johnson led the Harlesden Peoples Community Council (HPCC) dream to expand the mix of educational, social and commercial development work they were doing in the local community. For this to be realised they would need much larger premises:
A COMMUNITY COMPLEX
Leonard knew the bus depot was disused and thought to approach them. He mentioned 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 him being praised for overturning a potential riot in Harlesden, NW London.
At that time, the land and bus depot was to be sold for the value of £3 Million. Through a series of meetings HPCC asked for LT’s support in giving HPCC their backing and an opportunity for HPCC to purchase the land and the 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 and benefit of the local community; subject to us being able to raise the funds.
London Transport would be sympathetic and allow us up to 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 to be sold for a value of £3Million, they agreed that it be both reduced and then fixed at a price of £1.8Million; which would facilitate us in raising the funds required.
HPCC were then able to enter into serious discussion with Brent about getting some of our local money reimbursed 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 £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 were able to 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 having also been invited by Leonard in the same way. Leonard then said “You have justify HPCC’s 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 excuses, 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 for sale. Following a presentation by Leonard Johnson and HPCC it was agreed that it be held for 24 months to allow the purchase by 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.
At that time HPCC was only set up as a co-operative and 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 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 overturned by two Afrikan-Caribbean Councillors; who advised 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.
Their intention was to attempt to sell the land and build a new development; the full details of which are unconfirmed, but we understand includes up to 600 residential flats (only 30 of which are affordable), ‘Le Royal’ Hotel (4 star), a public gym and a 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 to use.
The Bridge Park Complex belongs to us the community and should remain in the control of 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 the 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 a group of BPCC volunteers were invited and met with Head of the Council Mohammed Bhutt and CEO Brent Councillor Carolyn Downs; along with a number senior staff. A total of 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 separately to us stating our clear interest in Bridge Park. It was during the second meeting that the Leader informed us they had decided to proceed with the sale of Bridge Park that day. We felt this went against Brent’s public promise to halt the sale. Following that second meeting BPCC decided to reactivate our application to the Land Registry and our public campaign.
August 2017 – We successfully entered an RX1 application with the Land Registry to establish our interest and 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 a swimming pool.”
See the Communities’ alternative self-sustaining vision for development of Bridge Park: click to see: Our Vision
We need you to continue to give your support by attending [remote] public meetings so that you can be kept abreast of the developments. Please register your attendance by leaving your name and contact details.
We invite you to help us to raise funds.
Please donate visit: www.gofundme.com/bridgepark