Campaigners who want to stop Southall Town Hall being leased to a single organisation for 250 years are celebrating after a date for a full judicial review hearing was set.
The Save Southall Town Hall group has been protesting against a decision by Ealing Council made last year to lease the building for 250 years to the adjacent Vishwa Hindu Kendra temple.
The Grade II listed hall is currently in use as an Enterprise Centre and is occupied by charities including Southall Community Alliance, which supports local business, and Helplink which provides free English lessons, computer classes and health support.
But the council says it has made a loss on running the building every year since 2010.
On Wednesday, April 18, the campaigners won a decision at the Royal Courts of Justice to allow for a full judicial review of the lease decision.
The review will now be heard at the same court on July 4 and 5, much sooner than the group had expected.
In the first hearing, Kate Markus QC, sitting as a deputy judge, accepted the campaigners had legitimate concerns and grounds for reviewing Ealing Council’s decision and that the council must explain how it has considered the community value and use of the building.
It will also have to show that an equality impact assessment has been undertaken.
The court case has been brought by Mohinder Pal, a local pensioner and member of the Indian Workers Association's Southall branch.
Suresh Grover, chair of the Save Southall Town Hall Campaign, said:
“The decision to hold a judicial review puts the ball firmly in the council leader’s court, an alarm bell should now be ringing in his ear.
"He should urgently reflect on the judge’s comments, listen to the views of local people and review their decision.
"The alternative is to squander taxpayers’ money by proceeding with their case and to defend the indefensible.”
Janpal Basran, from Southall Community Alliance added: “As a tenant, working in Southall Town Hall, we are delighted with this decision. It is a real boost to hear a senior judge say what members of the campaign have been saying, namely that the sale process has not considered the value of this historic building to our community.
"We hope that the Town Hall can be preserved as a community asset for future generations."
Mr Basran dispiutes the council is making a loss on the hall as he says 70 per cent of its outlay goes to pay two members of staff and on cleaning services.
He wants to see the hall run by a local community organisation - a model which is being tried out at other community centres in Ealing.
If this happened he says the hire of the building could make a surplus which could then be put back into the community.
Helen Mowatt, the campaign's solicitor from the Public Interest Law Unit, said after the hearing: “The decision of Judge Markus has made clear that local authorities must take their obligations under equalities legislation seriously, and must actively consider the community value and use of buildings before selling them off to the highest bidder.
"We hope for a positive result at the full judicial review hearing, and for a final decision which places equality at the centre of all local government policy and decision-making".
Ealing Council has been approached for a comment.