Frustration at plans to sell off day centre

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MEMBERS of a Luton church say they will have “nowhere to go” if Luton Borough Council forces them out of the building where they currently worship.

The Luton Tabernacle, which meets every Sunday at the day centre for the elderly in Hockwell Ring Day Centre, has been told that the centre will soon close and they must move out.

The day centre facility has moved to the Hockwell Ring Community Centre, and the church says that when the move was agreed, the council said it would consider letting the church buy the vacant building.

But church pastor Eddie Abraham said the council had now told him the building would be sold to the highest bidder.

He said: “When we came in on Sunday the whole place had been stripped bare. There was no heating or water available, and all the chairs had gone. They haven’t given us a date by which we need to find alternative accommodation.”

Mr Abraham said that in 2008, Luton North MP Kelvin Hopkins had written to the council to ask if it would consider finding the church a building or selling it some land.

“The council wrote back saying nothing was available but as soon as something was, they would consider us.”

It also said the council was minded to look at community uses for “smaller, less valuable” properties it was disposing of, the church leader said.
He continued: “When we fould out the day centre provision was going to be moved, we asked the council what would happen to the building, and they said they would welcome hearing our intentions. So we wrote to them saying we wanted to buy it.

“Now they’re not even considering us.”

Mr Abraham has set up a petition in protest at the situation, and said the church, which was set up eight years ago and has about 60 members, was a great community asset.

Among its activities, he said, were hosting soup kitchens, advice and support sessions for single parents, holding community events, and handing out food parcels to homeless and deprived people at Christmas,

He said: “We have been very good tenants for the council and we do a lot of work for the community. We have absolutely nowhere else to go.”

A spokesman for the council said: “Mr Abraham was made aware of the impending closure and was advised to seek to make alternative arrangements in respect of his organisation’s activities.

“He was further aware of the council’s plans to dispose of the building, the marketing details for which have yet to be finalised and confirmed. At no time did the council indicate that Mr Abraham could have the building.

“Luton Borough Council’s Community Development Service would be happy to sit down with members of the church to discuss how they can accommodate them within the newly refurbished Hockwell Ring Community Centre or other locations in the area.”