East London residents fight plan to convert old law court into chapel

A church planning to convert a former law court into a chapel is facing opposition from residents in east London who say there are already plenty of places of worship in the same road.

The Redeemed Evangelical Mission bought the Bow county court building in Romford Road, Stratford , from the Ministry of Justice last year, paying £3.5 million - writes standard.co.uk

Church leaders have now applied to Newham council to build a “heritage hub”, with a cafe, offices and space for 300 people on the first floor.

Neighbours have argued there are already eight other places of worship in the street, including the Highway Church directly next door.

Kapil Gupta said: “These include fairly visible places for Christians, Muslims , Hindus and Sikhs . I am proud of this diversity in Newham, but I strongly believe that there should be a limit on permitting the opening of new religious places when clearly, we have plenty. There are already many unused churches nearby as well that can be brought back to use by the applicant.”

Another objector said the site would be better used for housing. “Newham has many homeless people and this site could be used for housing,” he said. “Other buildings next to this site have been converted and this building would lend itself well for this use.”

The Redeemed Evangelical Church was set up in Nigeria in 1981 and now has 160 branches in 10 different countries. The UK bases include Cardiff, Birmingham and Leeds, as well as Fulham, Dagenham and Clapton in the capital.

The Stratford “heritage hub” is described as a “centre for all nations and people who believe in the efficacy of the word of God and desire to be all that God wants them to be”.

The church said it has started a programme to engage with the community and pledged to run a food bank and seminars to address issues of “drugs, gangs , violence and early pregnancies ” if planning permission is granted.

A resident called Rocky Hirst wrote to the council to support the “highly community-driven” application. He added that he hoped the “main hall could be available for hire for local music, theatre and other creative groups to encourage the arts”.

The church declined to comment further. Newham council will decide on the plans later this year.

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