Thurlow Lodge Community Hall OCCUPIED- rush solidarity now!

9 January 2017

Thurlow Lodge Community Hall OCCUPIED- support us now!
Tonight’s meeting of supporters of homeless charity and food bank Divine Rescue voted to occupy Thurlow Lodge Community Hall. We pledged to keep the hall open and to set up a new TRA to manage the hall and represent tenants and residents. The occupation needs your support. Please go down and volunteer to stay overnight, or help out in activities during the day or evening.
To send a message of support, invite an occupier to your meeting or go on the occupation mailing list please email thurlowlodgeoccupation@gmail.com
(See phone contacts at the end of this email)

Thurlow Lodge Occupation Week 1 activities list
All activities from Thurlow Lodge,
1, Thurlow Street, corner of Albany Road, SE17 2US
map here
Tuesday 10th January, 6pm- Occupation meeting, all welcome
Wednesday 11th January 6pm – Leaflet the Aylesbury Estate
Thursday 12th January 6pm- Leaflet the Aylesbury Estate
Saturday 14th January 3pm – Solidarity Afternoon Tea Party with music and fun. Bring union and campaign banners. Banner making workshop. All welcome including children.
Sunday 15th January 5:30pm – New TRA inaugural meeting. All Aylesbury tenants and residents welcome followed by  6:30pm – Occupation meeting

Thurlow Lodge occupation Press release and demands 8th January 2016
We have occupied Thurlow Lodge Community Hall and do not intend to allow entry to any representative of Southwark Council, Notting Hill Housing or Creation Trust until our demands are met. We do, however intend to keep the hall open for the use of the community and we will support the work of homeless charity and food bank Divine Rescue for as long as they wish to stay.
We have taken this step following a shocking series of events which demonstrate to us that none of the three organisations above have any regard whatever for the tenants and residents of this estate the poor, homeless and disabled clients of Divine Rescue or the wider community in which we live. Some of these events are listed below:

  1. The Thurlow Lodge Hall Management Committee consisted of the representatives of three TRAs and Creation Trust. One of these TRAs- Wendover TRA no longer operates. Thurlow Lodge TRA reps have publicly resigned from the Management Committee. They alleged that the Management Committee was involved in financial malpractice. The remaining TRA- Aylesbury TRA and the remaining members of the Management Committee are understood to have dissolved the Management Committee at the end of 2016 and handed the keys to Thurlow Lodge to the Council.
  2. During the past two years, Divine Rescue, which has a lease with the Management Committee has been subjected to a regime of bullying and harassment aimed at forcing the charity vacate the building. This has included preventing the homeless from using the front door, making them stand outside for their food, and preventing Divine Rescue from using the kitchen facilities for cooking meals.
  3. Divine Rescue were advised by a supportive Councillor, Dora Dixon-Fyle, to withhold payment of rent until they were once again allowed to use the kitchen. They did this and sought to resolve the issue with the Management Committee. The Management Committee has ignored their requests. Following the occupation of the hall Divine Rescue has now, after several months, begun providing hot meals for their vulnerable clients.
  4. Divine Rescue has attempted, through direct communication with the Council, Creation Trust and the Management Committee, and through intermediaries, to secure an alternative venue. These attempts began in July 2016.  Councillors and council officers have passed the buck and refused to help.
  5. On Thursday 5th January, a council officer and representative of Creation Trust came around to evict Divine Rescue from the hall. He locked up furniture, turned off the freezer containing two turkeys for the charity’s hungry clients and removed all the toilet rolls. Only an irate service user stopped them from removing all the lights in the hall. She reminded them that this would be a danger to the vulnerable service users.
  6. The Council has now given Divine Rescue a two week stay of execution whilst it consults its lawyers.
  7. Cabinet Member for Finance, Modernisation and Performance stated “Due to the current condition of the building, future plans to demolish the building, escalating costs and dwindling numbers of people using the centre, the management committee, with the support of Southwark Council, made the decision to close the Thurlow Lodge community centre, and in July last year the committee notified centre users that it would close on January 6 to give them notice to find alternative premises.” The Council’s intention is clear- CLOSURE of the hall and EVICTION of Divine Rescue.

Fiona Colley’s justifications for closing the hall are nonsense.
Divine Rescue has over 100 clients per day which use its services. The hall is in demand for functions and events as well as training, consultation events, and of course, will be a centre for our new Tenants and Resident Association.

There is no evidence that the hall has extraordinary maintenance costs over and above what is normal for a TRA hall.

The hall is in good repair and no leaks from above are apparent.

The demolition of Wendover is not scheduled to happen for at least another two years.

Sadly, TRA reps seem to have walked away from Thurlow Lodge and allowed the Council to close it. Tenants and Residents will be setting up a TRA which is prepared to manage the hall and represent the voices of tenants and residents on the estate.

Our Demands

  1. We demand that the Council allows the Hall to stay open for the benefit of the community for as long as Wendover remains standing. Notting Hill’s phasing plan shows that Wendover will not be demolished for at least another two years.
  2. We demand that Divine Rescue is allowed to stay on its current rent.
  3. We demand that the Council recognises our new TRA.
  4. We demand a full and transparent investigation into the financial affairs of the Management Committee including full disclosure of accounts and a copy of any tenancy at will with details of the signatories.
  5. We demand to know which Councillor or Council Officer ordered the eviction of Divine Rescue and the closure of the hall. We want to see the survey that was carried out on Thursday 5th January.
  6. If the empty flat above the hall has a leaking radiator we ask that the council fixes it and lets out the flat to a homeless family.
  7. We demand that the Council halts the demolition of the Aylesbury Estate and instead, works with tenants and residents to refurbish the estate for the benefit of the existing community.

We would like the help of the tenants’ movement in Southwark and beyond. We request that The Southwark Group of Tenants Organisations assists us in the setting up of a new TRA and whilst it is being set up we ask that SGTO help us manage the hall.
We invite all tenants and residents to visit and help us in the occupation and to work with us to keep this hall open. We invite all friendly journalists and supporters to come in and report what we are doing. We intend to provide a full programme of meetings and events as befitting a fully functioning TRA. We do not have any confidence in the Council to take over and manage the hall for us. Their intention to close it is clear. Therefore, we will be happy to meet with the Council, but we will not be allowing them entry to the building.

Signed,
Thurlow Lodge Occupation Committee and New TRA Steering group

For press inquiries and general occupation inquiries contact Tanya Murat 07792 786 192
For New TRA enquiries and for press relating to tenants’ and residents’ experience contact Aysen Dennis
For Divine Rescue and to help in the occupation contact Catherine Msoni 07930 181052 or Valerie Msoni 07955 030266

Email:  thurlowlodgeoccupation@gmail.com

Solidarity,

Tanya, Chair Southwark Defend Council Housing

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