2nd Hoxton Guides ‘forced to leave base’ over council’s rent demands

Leaders Vicky Stock and Zoe Coles with Vicky's daughter Tilly Tobyn, who was a Brownie guide, and Vi

Leaders Vicky Stock and Zoe Coles with Vicky's daughter Tilly Tobyn, who was a Brownie guide, and Vicky's grandson Tommy Tobyn - Credit: Archant

Young girls have been left heartbroken after their guiding group was priced out of its Hoxton hut, leaving them unable to meet.

The 2nd Hoxton group was clearing out 18 years’ worth of equipment from the Florence Bennett Centre in Cherbury Street two weeks ago.

They moved in to the derelict premises in 1998 and spent more than £100,000 renovating it, but council bosses told trustees in December they would have to start paying thousands of pounds in rent, or leave.

“They’ve left an awful lot of children devastated,” said leader Janet Emons, 68, who runs the group with help from Vicky Stock and Zoe Coles, among others. “They are absolutely heartbroken.

“They are such nice kids. Hackney Council have just ridden roughshod over us and aren’t

taking us into consideration.”

The group, part of the 150-year-old Girls’ Guild of Good Life organisation, had 25 rainbows, brownies and guides on its books and had planned a trip to Florida next year – which has now been cancelled.

Most Read

“The council wanted to charge an enormous amount and our trustees said no,” said Janet. “In 1998 we were told if we refurbished it we could use it. It was an old rent office used for storage. The floor was inches deep in water and there was fire extinguishers through the wall. It wouldn’t have been a viable building if we hadn’t done that.

Tilly Tobyn, nine, was a Brownie at the guides, and said she missed seeing her friends there.

“All I do now after school is sit at home and do nothing,” she said.

Trustees were told they would have to pay either a commercial rate of £45,000 a year or apply for a Voluntary and Community Sector (VCS) lease at £14,500.

The council said the decision to leave was made by trustees, who indicated they couldn’t pay any

rent. A spokesman said: “The trustees made the decision not to continue with discussions, as the property was too large and not suitable or affordable on either basis.”

He said the council had told them of available community halls in the area.