A HACKNEY YOUTH club may be forced out of its home by property developers out to make a huge profit from its prime site.
The St Matthias Youth Club building in Dalston Lane E8 1NH is being offered for sale at almost £2 million by owner London Youth. Potential buyers have already been shown over the utilitarian but huge hall at the corner of Cecilia Road.
Replacing the building with a high block of flats and possibly shops is likely, although a canny firm may make millions without laying a brick but simply by selling to a real developer, as happened with the Peacocks site near Kingsland station.
They may find it not as easy as the agent has been suggesting because St Matthias is telling Loving Dalston it does not want to go anywhere.
Its chairman, City lawyer David Birchall, said: “St Matthias has been providing opportunities to young people for nearly 50 years, and we are all determined to make sure we provide them for another 50 years.
“The club does not own the premises but everything we have done and will continue to do is aimed at continuing.
No 101 Dalston Lane had always been the place people associated with the club and its preference was “to stay at the site, with a redeveloped club”.
The club’s resolve for “an even stronger future” had been strengthened by public support.
London Youth helps about 270 voluntary groups around London. Communications director Jim Minton explained what led to the the Shoreditch-based umbrella organisation’s decision to sell St Matthias: “All of these clubs are independent but for historical reasons we own three or four properties around London.
“Last summer one organisation in one of those buildings went out of business and the building was returned to us suddenly.
“We had to spend thousands of pounds to get rid of and keep out squatters, so our trustees decided that owning and managing property was too risky and expensive for us as a youth charity.
“So for the last year we’ve been working with David Birchall and Mohammed Alam to dispose of St Matthias, working with them so the club can have a thriving future after the club is sold.
“We think we’ve found a way to help ensure that St Matthias will carry on being a thriving club.”
Some of the money from the sale would be invested in St Matthias for it “to sustain services”.
It would have to raise money as well as find a new location and London Youth had been helping with that. The club would be introduced to bidders to see if some provision or space could be included in any development.
Minton added: “Our interest is in giving young people access to youth work, not in managing property.”
The sole reason for the sale was “sustaining good youth work”.
The placing of the site in the market will nevertheless add to worries about so-called gentrification, the improvement of an area that is said to displace indigenous residents and their way of life.
Local figures were quick to support St Matthias.
Hackney North and Stoke Newington MP Diane Abbott emailed: “I am very concerned to hear that St Matthias Youth Club may have to close down.
“The last thing the community needs is more over-priced flats.”
The club has been the subject of some complaints over the years but Hackney police see it as valuable resource.
Sergeant Raymond O’Brien of the local neighbourhood policing teams had not heard of the intended sale until told by Loving Dalston. He commented: “The club has been providing a safe environment for young people to play and learn since 1969.
“It has provided young people with a positive connection to their community and experience of building positive relationships, while also affording them a sense of pride in their association with, and achievements through, the club.”
He hoped the club could be relocated or that any developer would try to arrange for some of the youth services to be offered.
David Altheer 130416
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