Marvin Rees has responded to calls for a former youth facility to be reopened in south Bristol.
Campaigners Anita Pearce and Margaret Rawlins are calling for the former Eagle House Youth Centre, which is now a church, to become a youth club again.
During a full council meeting on Tuesday evening, they asked the mayor why the Mountain of Fire and Miracle Ministries (MFM) have not had their lease for the building on Newquay Road in Knowle West revoked.
The Nigerian Pentecostal church was awarded the lease for the council-owned building in 2016, following the closure of the youth club in 2014, in a community asset transfer.
But campaigners say the church, which has been associated with so-called gay “conversion therapy” elsewhere in the UK, is not opening the building for community use.
Speaking at full council, Pearce asked: “We would like to know why the occupiers of the ex-youth club have repeatedly broken the terms of their contract and why have no steps been taken to remove them?”
She said the MFM did not use the building for two years and that they asked someone to shut the water and electricity off.
Responding, the mayor said the council is not aware of any complaints or breaches of the contract, but said these would be investigated if reported.
He said he will follow up Pearce’s points and stressed that if tenants are found in breach of their contract, the relevant action will be taken.
Pearce and Rawlins are both members of the committee for Eagle House Social Club, which is next to the church.
Rawlins, who lives on Newquay Road, said a proposed new youth centre – the “Youth Zone” – on the outskirts of Knowle West will not resolve the issues in the street.
She said at the meeting: “Does the mayor not realise the need is for a local service to tackle a local problem now?
“Living in Newquay Road, the anti-social behaviour has gone beyond, there’s no youth services tackling these problems.”
Rees replied: “I do appreciate you raising the concerns of anti-social behaviour, I do recognise the stress it brings to life.
“It is a challenge for us in Bristol at the moment, we have increasing levels of need.
“The country’s been left in quite a state after the last 15 years of disinvesting in our services and in the physical places as well – and local government is left to try and pick up the pieces.
“Setting up a youth centre is not quite as straightforward as just identifying the building because you have to have staff, an organisation, insurance, equipment and all the rest of it.
“I do want to raise the Youth Zone because it is a multi-million pound, first-class investment in young people in south Bristol.
“It is the kind of venue that will be drawing on a wider catchment across Bristol, giving our young people the excellent quality interventions that they deserve and the city needs them to have.”
Carol Casey, another campaigner in Knowle West who is working with Pearce and Rawlins, says she has a youth organisation, who do not wished to be named, ready to move into the building.
She has also created a petition calling for the building to be given back to the community, which has more than 250 signatures online and which local councillor Zoe Goodman presented at the council meeting.
In a written response to Goodman, the council said the church’s lease of the building is due to end in May 2026 and that the Eagle House site could be redeveloped following this.
They wrote: “There is no intention to offer the current tenant a new lease, or to renew the existing lease. The tenant has been informed that the council will not offer a new lease.
“When the lease ends, the estate strategy board will consider whether the property should be re-let to a new tenant, or redeveloped, or disposed of.
“Redevelopment of the site for residential and a new, purpose-built youth and community space could create a new home for the Eagle House Community Centre.”
The pastor of MFM Bristol, Tunde Adeleke, told Bristol24/7 he does not wish to comment on the concerns raised about the church at full council.
He has previously said the “appropriate authority” would respond to queries although nothing has ever been received.
MFM was founded in 1989 in Nigeria and now has more than 50 branches throughout the UK, but has been associated with gay conversion therapy.
Charlie Watts is reporting on Knowle West as part of Bristol24/7’s community reporter scheme, a project which aims to tell stories from areas of Bristol traditionally under-served by the mainstream media
Main photo: Charlie Watts
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