Lewisham: Anger at council’s U-turn on church

4:25pm Tuesday 20th June 2006

By Chris Johnson

A CHURCHMAN is threatening to sue a council because it says it may revoke a decision to allow a church to reopen.

On April 10 the Rev Dr Femi Olowo received planning permission from Lewisham Council's planning committee to renovate a church building in Mayeswood Road, Grove Park.

The church, formerly a Baptist church, was due to reopen under the new name of the Jubilee International Church on July 8.

Contractors have been renovating the £305,000 building over the past few months ready for the launch date.

But residents complained to the council, saying the building has only been used to store and distribute religious books for a "considerable number of years".

They expressed concerns about potential noise and parking problems from the new owner.

While the dispute rumbles on, Dr Olowo says the renovation project, which is costing £375,000 is now running into a financial crisis.

He said: "We had agreed a bank loan which has now been withheld from us until the council makes its mind up.

"We are now in breach of contract with the builders.

"The last invoice we received in May was for £39,000 and we have only managed to pay £11,000 of it."

Dr Olowo says he believes the church is being targeted because its worshippers are black.

He added: "There are around 40 members in the church.

"There are only about 10 car users and we've installed double glazing to combat noise problems from our services."

A spokesman for Lewisham Council says it is looking into the legal issues surrounding the lawful use of the property and will "take a view in the near future".

Grove Park councillor David Britton said: "The church was formerly a Baptist church, but this will be a Pentecostal church which is a very different animal.

"The services are very long and they use drums, which will make a lot of noise.

"If the church is allowed to open and then proves too noisy or causes parking problems then it could be shut down."

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