Bailiffs lock up London Colney youth counselling centre
PUBLISHED: 06:49 01 February 2014
There is outrage in a St Albans village after bailiffs unexpectedly swooped in at 4am to take possession of a centre used to provide counselling services to local children by changing the locks.
The police were alerted when Parkinson Bailiff Services entered The Base, home to a youth project on the High Street in London Colney, setting off an alarm.
Dreda Gordon, chair of the management committee which runs the charitable project, said: “I am absolutely livid. Two bailiffs arrived at 4am on Friday (24) and drilled off the locks. We are an independent charity. I’m shocked.”
To make matters worse, the bailiffs have demanded a payment of £144 an hour should project members want to access the premises.
The police did not intervene, as it is considered a civil matter.
The Base has provided activities and many services to hundreds of young local people, including counselling, since 1995.
Funding is provided from London Colney parish and St Albans district councils, and the project is a partnership between regional health services and Youth Connexions Hertfordshire.
However a dispute arose over an attempt by the landlords to increase the rent.
Negotiations over the new lease, rental and interim rental are the subject of court proceedings at St Albans County Court.
Dreda said that although the lease had expired, “we have continued paying the rent at the level we were paying before, but the landlord wants to put up the rent.”
The management committee has sought a rent reduction to reflect the project’s charitable status.
Management committee member Jacob Quagliozzi said: “The Base is a safe, warm, friendly environment for local young people to meet up and chill out together.
“For it to be closed inevitably means young people have nowhere to meet up except the streets.”
Mike Lovelady, head of the district council’s legal services, said the authority had been asked to help negotiate the renewal of the lease, but agreement could not be reach with the landlords over its terms.
Despite the council issuing court proceedings on behalf of The Base for an order setting out terms of the new lease, the landlords had re-entered the premises.
Mr Lovelady said: “We have since written to the landlords’ solicitors asking for an explanation for the action taken.
“We are also seeking legal advice to help establish what steps can be taken to resolve this issue as soon as possible.”
Neither the bailiffs nor the landlords responded to the Herts Ad at the time of going to press.