An MP is demanding council chiefs secure a future for the Brent Irish Advisory Service which faces eviction from its long-term home in the coming months. As Irish organisations and charities across Britain face the brunt of British Government cuts, the North London council’s plans to redevelop Willesden Green Library could leave the charity homeless when the developers move onto the land.
Founded in 1978, the charity provides advice, information and support services to the Irish in Brent and across London from its long-term headquarters at the library in Willesden Green. When the council decided to redevelop the land to create a new Cultural Centre, which will include an adjacent residential development for private sale, BIAS no longer featured in the future plans for the site.
Liberal Democrat MP Sarah Teather wrote to the council this week urging them to secure the future for the charity serving thousands of Irish people in her Brent Central constituency — the London borough with the largest Irish population. “I have raised my concerns about the fate of the Brent Irish Advisory Service ever since the Council first announced their plans to redevelop Willesden Green library,” she told The Irish Post. “But the future of BIAS is still in doubt.”
The MP’s calls were echoed by Derryborn councillor Steve Bradley, of the Liberal Democrats Irish Group. “Services like BIAS are long established and play a vital part in the community,” he said. “At a time when a new wave of emigrants are arriving into the city, demand for services like BIAS are as important as ever. This uncertainty is not helping them or the vulnerable people with whom they work.”
When The Irish Post contacted Brent Council we were told they have no responsibility to relocate the charity, but would assist them in their search for new premises. “The council has not provided BIAS with any designated space within the new cultural centre,” a council spokesperson confirmed. “The Brent Irish Advisory Service does not provide core council services; the council therefore has no statutory obligation to find them alternative accommodation. The council will however offer them assistance to try and secure alternative premises within the borough.”
BIAS Director Mike McGing took up the role in September. He told The Irish Post: “We are obviously concerned for our future and our ability to continue to deliver essential services for vulnerable Irish people in the borough. We have been in the building for many years and we do not want to be homeless — that would not be good for us or for the Irish community whom we serve.”
Brent’s Willesden Green Library Redevelopment project is being undertaken with the Galliford Try construction company — who will pay for and build the new cultural centre. In return the developers will build new homes on the car park site at the back of the existing library for private sale. The project is expected to be completed in 2014.
For further information visit www.brent.gov.uk/regeneration