Domestic violence charity reaches agreement with council over premises dispute
PUBLISHED: 12:56 12 October 2020 | UPDATED: 15:01 12 October 2020
A local domestic violence charity has reached an agreement with Hackney Council, bringing an end to a long-running dispute about its eviction.
Sistah Space, a domestic violence charity specialising in services for women of African heritage, was evicted from its Mare Street premises more than four weeks ago and asked to return to its former home in Lower Clapton.
Hackney Council previously said it spent £35,000 refurbishing that site at the charity’s request, but the charity said the building was unsafe for staff and service users and unsuitable for its work.
Hackney’s Green Party, Liberal Democrats and Women’s Equality Party supported Sistah Space throughout its campaign.
In a joint statement, the local parties said the agreement comes following “enormous public pressure” and said the dispute was not just about premises: “It also challenged structural racism, sexism and classism at play in the council’s treatment of this vital service led by and for African heritage survivors of domestic violence and abuse.”
After numerous risk assessments and independent mediation, the council now accepts the former Lower Clapton premises is unsafe and Sistah Space will now re-enter its Mare Street premises on a temporary basis while searching for a permanent venue.
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The joint statement also included concerns about the new temporary agreement as it “only” runs until January 17, 2021.
“We hope Hackney Council will now engage with the community to ensure this can never happen again,” it said.
The temporary arrangement will continue to be provided to Sistah Space at no cost and the council has agreed to cover Sistah Space’s removal costs, up to a predefined cap, on the date they have agreed to leave the premises.
A joint statement released by Sistah Space and Hackney Council said the charity accepts the council cannot guarantee further temporary or permanent accommodation after January.
However, Sistah Space can still apply for use of council buildings as they become available as part of a competitive process.
A spokesperson for Hackney Council and Sistah Space said the dispute was “regrettable” and both parties have agreed to move on: “Hackney Council and Sistah Space look forward to working together in the months and years to come.”
The council intends to market and let the Mare Street premises.
Over 20,000 people signed a petition demanding that a temporary lease be granted for Sistah Space until at least March 2021 and hundreds of activists and supporters rallied against threats of eviction outside Hackney Town Hall in July.
READ MORE: Hundreds protest plans to move Hackney domestic abuse charity into “unsuitable premises”
To read the full statement from Hackney Council and Sistah Space click here
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