Online betting firm link to London Colney pastoral centre link

THERE are strong rumours that an iconic and historic religious centre in London Colney has been sold to developers connected to an online poker site for more than �8 million.

Several sources have contacted the Herts Advertiser on condition of anonymity, claiming they had been told that an American with ties to had purchased All Saints Pastoral Centre, a religious institution since it was established in the Victorian era.

A spokesman for the Diocese of Westminster, which has owned All Saints for nearly four decades, refused to confirm or deny the allegations but he said the sale was in its final stages.

The diocese previously said that having received a “satisfactory offer” for All Saints, its trustees gave permission to its agents to conclude the sale to an unnamed preferred bidder.

In January last year the diocese announced it was closing the centre because the cost of upgrading its facilities would not be “prudent”.

But that decision has upset London Colney residents and centre supporters who are desperately bidding to protect what they describe as a serene place with a huge parish community.

One woman, who did not want to be named, has accused the diocese of “dirty tricks” as the sale was announced a week before the official deadline of December 31, 2011.

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She accused it of putting church coffers ahead of the community’s needs, adding: “The prospect of spreading suburbia where once London Colney, Shenley and a green space were will not affect Westminster.”

All Saints, set in 60 acres of grounds and boasting historic sites dating back to Norman times, has also provided a residential retreat for children and young people.

The woman added: “Disadvantaged and other youth were greatly helped every summer. All year long the rest of us could worship and park in incomparable surroundings. What is in danger of destruction can never be replaced.”

Peter Baker, a spokesman for campaign group Save All Saints (SAS) committee, said if the rumours about the centre’s sale to a developer with links to an online gambling site were true, “it is a concern”.

One bid that failed had offered a variety of facilities for visitors and residents, including allotments, a swimming pool and sports pitches. That bid, the value of which was lower than the �8 million one believed accepted by the diocese, also offered to protect places of historic interest at the centre, including the moated site of a chantry chapel dating back to Norman times.

Peter said the pastoral village bid, offered by a consortium of people associated with the centre, featured a piazza named after St Alban, rumoured to have been held at the site prior to his execution, and plans to host weddings and concerts.

The committee is urging people to write to local councillors, MPs and the diocese to ask the church to reverse its decision.