Tuesday22 August 2017

Central House sale 'won't stop us', say campaigners

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Community vows to fight on as university sells Aldgate building for £50m

Local campaigners trying to get the Cass’s Central House listed as a community asset insist the building’s sale will not stop them.

London Met announced on Friday that it had sold the building at Aldgate for £50 million to Frasers Property (UK) Ltd.

FPUK immediately leased it back to the university until August 2017 when students will be moved to Holloway as part of the controversial “one campus one community” policy.

A spokesman for the university said it had managed to sell Central House for “significantly above the expected market value” which would allow it to invest more in a new home for the Cass in north London.

Just before the sale, the local community submitted an application to Tower Hamlets council to have Central House listed as an asset of community value under the Localism Act.

This would mean that next time the building is put on the market they would be given first refusal. One option then would be to set up an independent art school, they said.

Architect Esther Waterfield, a local resident and partner at Stepney Green-based McKinney Waterfield, who is convenor of the community group, said the sale to FPUK would not stop them.

“It’s not a surprise because we were aware it was a bit of a race against time,” she said. “It just means the owner is a different person. We will continue.”

The group, made up of around 60 local people, is waiting to hear from Tower Hamlets whether it will have to start the process again.

“There are a lot of people who got behind this who really want an art school at Aldgate. This is a battle worth fighting,” said Waterfield.

“The Cass has a huge reputation so prior to this [the campaign to keep it at Aldgate] was about the people who work there and the great and the good who want to keep it, but this is very much about local people.”

The Cass, whose supporters include Tate director Nicholas Serota and architects David Chipperfield and Richard Rogers, has been part of the community for a long time and its short courses are very popular locally, said Waterfield.

“It’s not just a white, middle class thing – it’s really used by everyone,” she added. “Local politics can be quite divided round here and places like the Cass do a great job of bringing people together.

“Aldgate is getting lots of glossy new office blocks which offer employment but not public access like the Cass does. It’s unique and impossible to replace.”

Simon Lear, chief executive of FPUK, said it would spend the next few months considering options for the site and consulting local stakeholders and the community.

“Central House is very well located and FPUK is delighted to have this fantastic opportunity to add to the thriving and vibrant mix of culture and commerce in the area,” he said.

A spokesman for London Met said it had reassured staff and students the university would “maintain use of the building until August 2017. We’re also organising more open sessions in the Cass to ensure students and staff are fully informed about the sale and the next stages of the move”.

He added: “We have negotiated a sale price which is significantly above the expected market value, which means we can put even more resource into our one campus, one community project to create a new home for the Cass and all of our students in Holloway.

“We are creating a new home for the Cass in Islington and are committed to ensuring its making ethos and philosophy of teaching endures.”



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