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Catholic churches belonging to the Enfield Deanery are asking parishioners to write to MPs and councillors complaining about Enfield Council's decision to register St Monica's Large Hall/Intimate Theatre as an Asset of Community Value (ACV).  The reaction of the Save the Intimate Theatre campaign has been to express hope that the letters to elected representatives might provide a "longed for opportunity" for a meeting to take place with all interested parties present.

"Expecting better" from councillors

My understanding is that the decision to launch the counter-campaign and the drafting of letter templates was made at Deanery level, but also has support at Diocesan level - the template that I have seen, sent to me by a parishioner of Christ the King Church in Cockfosters, was created on a computer belonging to the Archdiocese of Westminster's Director of Communications.  The wording implies that councillors bear responsibility for the ACV decision, says that the sender "expects better" from them, and suggests that they have been working against the "good of the community".

Letter template sent to parishioners of Christ the King Church, Cockfosters

[Version to be sent to councillors]

Dear

I was very disappointed to learn that the Council has decided in favour of listing the Large Hall at St Monica’s Catholic Church as an Asset of Community Value without consulting parishioners and other residents of Enfield.

The Large Hall is part of the parish property, and not the property of others as you may have been misled to believe. It was built as a parish hall by the parish nearly a century ago, using funds raised by parishioners. Although it may have once been used as a theatre, for over 30 years now, it has been used primarily as a parish hall.

That it was declared an Asset of Community Value without consulting parishioners of St Monica’s and on the basis of doubtful claims is very disappointing indeed. As a parishioner of Christ the King Cockfosters, I am concerned that this action sets a dangerous precedent about what else you may be willing to do as a Council that might potentially deprive my parish community of its rights too.

In case you are not aware, the church is funded by individual parishioner contributions. When you make a decision that affects any parish financially, you are affecting each and every parishioner personally. I stand in solidarity with parishioners of St Monica’s in saying that I expect better from our councillors.

As my councillor, I would expect that you would represent our interests and work for the good of our community. If you wish to show that you are working for our community, then I ask that you reverse this decision and remove this listing which is harmful to St Monica’s parishioners.

Yours sincerely

 

[Version to be sent to MP]

Dear

I was very disappointed to learn that the Council has decided in favour of listing the Large Hall at St Monica’s Catholic Church as an Asset of Community Value without consulting parishioners and other residents of Enfield.

The Large Hall is part of the parish property, and not the property of others as you may have been misled to believe. It was built as a parish hall by the parish nearly a century ago, using funds raised by parishioners. Although it may have once been used as a theatre, for over 30 years now, it has been used primarily as a parish hall.

That it was declared an Asset of Community Value without consulting parishioners of St Monica’s and on the basis of doubtful claims is very disappointing indeed. As a parishioner of Christ the King Cockfosters, I am concerned that this action sets a dangerous precedent about what else you may be willing to do as a Council that might potentially deprive my parish community of its rights too.

In case you are not aware, the church is funded by individual parishioner contributions. When our civic leaders make a decision that affects the parish financially, you are affecting each and every parishioner personally. I expect better.

As my MP, I would ask your help in intervening to have this decision reversed and the listing, which is harmful to St Monica’s parishioners, removed.

Yours sincerely

 

"St Monica’s parish has and will continue to serve the Parish and wider community"

The request to contact MPs and councillors was included in Sunday's parish newsletter at St Monica's.


Excerpt from St Monica's Church Newsletter for 17th February

Dear Parishioners

For several years, the Building/Finance Committee has sought solutions to our ageing buildings, including the church, presbytery, our parish large hall and parish centre. Both the hall and parish centre are not fit for purpose, proving uneconomical, financially unsustainable, not meeting the needs of those with impaired mobility, nor the requirements for present parish life.

Our autumn parish meetings examined this in detail, explaining the four options considered and our chosen proposal to create one new parish centre on the site of the large hall. Creating an economic and sustainable centre both for now and in the future. Our parish proposal has met with objections from three theatre groups who hire our hall on average 39 days a year. We have been the focus of local politicians, local media and a BBC London radio feature.

They have been successful in listing our building as Asset of Community Value (ACV) without consulting our parish, effectively hindering our planning application. They have been instrumental in nominating our building as a listed building with Historic England and registering our parish hall with the Theatre Trust as a ‘theatre at risk’.

St Monica’s hall was built by and for the parish in 1931, leased to a theatre company from 1935 - 1988, then reverting to Church Hall status. For thirty years, the hall has served our parish activities, when possible we welcomed numerous community groups and accommodated theatre productions.

Our proposal meets parish requirements and affordable costs. St Monica’s parish has and will continue to serve the Parish and wider community in the building we are proposing.

I ask you, the parishioners, to write/email and/or meet your Member of Parliament, or local councillor, asking them to overturn the ACV and support our proposal.

If they are not supportive, ask what funding they will guarantee making the existing buildings fit for purpose.

With this attachment, I offer you two letters addressed to your MP and local councillor.

Please use or adapt these letters as you wish. I ask you to take this action on behalf of St Monica’s parish.

Thank you for your support

Fr Mehall Lowry

"An opportunity to have meaningful dialogue"

Asked by me to comment, Warren McWilliams of the Save the Intimate Theatre campaign provided the statement shown below.

Statement by Save the Intimate Theatre

We do not wish to enter into conflict with the Church. If Councillors and Members of Parliament are being contacted as a result of this letter, our hope is that this may provide a longed for opportunity for a meeting to take place with all interested parties present.

We sought advice and notified external, independent and trusted organisations, of the Diocese decision to demolish the Intimate Theatre. These organisations have made impartial judgements and are fully informed that the Church own the theatre and Parish Hall but are also aware of the rich history and value of the theatre to the wider community.

The ACV (Asset of Community Value) was challenged by the Diocese before it was awarded on 11th December by Enfield Council. It was decided at that stage that the theatre has benefit for the community as a whole.

Our hope is that we have an opportunity to have meaningful dialogue with the Church and all parties interested in the future of this building. Together, we can meet Parish needs and the needs of the wider community.

Save the Intimate Theatre Group

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David Eden's Avatar
David Eden posted a reply #4404 21 Feb 2019 17:01
Good on them. Why should any private land/property owner ever open up use of its assets to the public or local groups when it signs them up to developmental constraints in perpetuity?

See also...

  • 03 July 2019

Planning application submitted for demolition of the Intimate Theatre

A planning application has been submitted for the demolition of St Monica's Hall (the Intimate Theatre) and its replacement by a new-build parish centre for St Monica's church and a block of six apartments. The campaign to save the theatre is appealing to supporters to submit objections to the application. Read more

  • 23 January 2019

SMP say Goodbye to the Intimate - or is it just Au Revoir?

On Sunday afternoon the curtain came down on Snow White and, if its owners have their way, also on the Intimate Theatre. Fittingly, the theatrical company putting on the final show at the Intimate was St Monica's Players, named after St Monica's church, which owns the property, and the group which is most associated with the campaign to prevent demolition of this historic Palmers Green landmark. Read more