Thursday, January 14, 2010

Victory for 600-strong London Church in Lambeth Council ‘noise’ Battle

Christian Legal Centre reports, 'A 600 member strong London Church won its legal battle this week against Lambeth Borough Council in a last minute out of court settlement.

The All Nations Centre in Kennington was served by Lambeth Council with a noise abatement notice on 25 September 2009, preventing the Church from amplifying their music or sermons to the congregation on threat of prosecution.

Although the Church has been at its current location for over 45 years, a small number of residents began complaining to the Council about noise levels shortly after the Church began a leaflet drop in the local community. A noise abatement notice was then served against the Church in September without any warning or discussion.

Church leaders believed the timing of the notice and the procedural irregularities meant that there were motives involved in the case. In October 2009, senior Pastor Abraham Sackey said: “The complaint has nothing to do with the noise and everything to do with our faith. Lambeth Council are driving us out and we feel harassed.”
The Church sought the advice of the Christian Legal Centre. The All Nations Centre decided to go to court with the help of the Christian Legal Centre in order to appeal the notice issued against them but at the last minute the notice was withdrawn.

The use of Noise Abatement Notices is an issue of concern as recently it is being used effectively to categorise worship/the singing of hymns as Noise Pollution. At the Christian Legal Centre we are concerned that this law is being misused and could close down Churches. Paul Diamond, Barrister, led the legal team at the Christian Legal Centre and CLC has asked him to closely monitor the situtation.

Pastor Sackey said: “The Church believes that the Council’s withdrawal is an attempt to conceal what happened and which has been ongoing for some time, not only in Lambeth but nationally. The leaders of the Church maintained from the very outset that the notice had nothing to do with noise but rather was further evidence of the ongoing campaign of religious hatred and intimidation against evangelical Christians.”

Local MP Kate Hoey has backed the Church throughout. In December 2009 she said:

“They have been serving the local community for many years, consistently helping to improve the quality of life and overall well-being of people within the local community…It was therefore with a mixture of surprise and concern that I learned that they were served with a noise abatement notice.”

Onn Sein Kon, Case Manager at the Christian Legal Centre, said: “Regrettably, our case-load is increasing with Councils issuing noise abatement notices resulting in the curtailing or closure of Churches in London. Success in this case sends out a clear message that this method will not work. These Churches are vibrant and growing and play a critical part in their communities.”

A Petition of 15,000 signatures was delivered to the Office of the Mayor of London Boris Johnson on Tuesday asking him to fulfil the pledge made to the London Churches that Churches would be able to gain appropriate planning permission and premises in London.'

Andrea Minichiello Williams
020 7935 1488
Christian Legal Centre

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