Anger as volunteers are locked out of food poverty charity’s hub

Protestors outside The Shop in Nelson. Photos: Naz Alam
Protestors outside The Shop in Nelson. Photos: Naz Alam

A volunteer run community hub helping to tackle food poverty has had its base repossessed without notice.

Volunteers at The Shop in the Victory Centre in Nelson, which houses the In-Situ café, have been unable to access its stock since Friday as the locks were changed on the building.

The notice of repossession (s)

The notice of repossession (s)

Gill Watson, an In-Situ board member, also runs a wing of the Pendle Helping Hands charity from The Shop where those most in need of food can pick up bread and enjoy a pay as you feel hot soup, all of which is waste food from Lidl.

Pendle Leisure Trust, which is the tenant, says it has an agreed lease until the end of December with the landlord GPO Properties Ltd, and has paid its November rent.

The Shop was run by Pendle Leisure Trust as part of the Mary Portas Pilot but when the funding for staffing ran out, there was still enough remaining to pay up until the end of 2016.

The Leisure Trust is now attempting to negotiate entry to The Shop with the landlord but Gill, who believes the actions will have a profound effect on those desperate for food, is pushing for stronger action to ensure the agreed lease is honoured.

Gill Watson (s)

Gill Watson (s)

Gill said: “It’s come at a really bad time. It’s all a big mess.

“We have been collecting all sorts of things from clothes to furniture for the Syrian refugee families and people have been going in and sorting through it all.

“We were meant to be hosting a meal at The Shop for them there on Saturday but we had to hold that at Brierfield Library instead and I did the cooking at home.

“I have also just agreed to take on the waste food from Colne and Nelson as well as the Burnley branch of Lidl because there is so much demand for stuff.

Protestors in Nelson (s)

Protestors in Nelson (s)

“We’re not a foodbank, we’re anti-foodbank because I don’t think the referral system works. We just leave the food out for people to take, We don’t need to know their situation.

“It’s not easy to get a referral and a lot of people are put off, they might be scared of the threat of social services finding out or may be in work and not able to get one.

“We also have a thank you party planned on December 10th for all the volunteers involved in it.

“The people of Nelson were brilliant standing in the rain protesting today (Monday).

A protestor in the pouring rain (s)

A protestor in the pouring rain (s)

“Pendle Leisure Trust would seemingly rather pay the bailiffs £120 an hour to open the shop to clear the stock out than get their lawyer on the case.”

Pendle Leisure Trust’s Chief Executive, Alison Goode, said: “We are as shocked and disappointed as everyone else that the landlord has taken this stance and re-possessed the property.

“The rent payments are up-to-date up to the end of November and the December one would have been paid when it was due.

“We had an agreement in place with the original landlord and the lease was due to expire at the end of December.

“We are now trying to make arrangements with the landlord to gain access.”

People were collecting food from outside under a gazebo on Monday and can still collect food from Pendle Helping Hands from the hut in Barrowford and now adjacent to the Salvation Army café in Nelson.

GPO Properties Ltd had not responded to Leader Times Newspapers by the time this was published.