Casebook: Appeal cases - Community facilities - Olympic bid hopes block church proposal

The use of a large house in east London and its grounds as a place of religious worship has been rejected following an inspector's decision to upheld an enforcement notice on the basis that it might interfere with London's bid to host the 2012 Olympic Games.

The applicant was the Kingsway International Christian Centre, whose congregation has grown from 300 people in 1992 to 10,000 in 2003. Its church attendances and prayer meetings attract up to 4,000 people and conferences and similar events often host more than 10,000 people.

The council stated that the site fell in an area identified for employment purposes and in need of renewal. It also formed part of a larger area identified by the London Development Agency (LDA) to support infrastructure construction in the event of a successful bid. The LDA had identified the site for use as a construction compound for the proposed Olympic stadium and other facilities.

Should the bid fail, the inspector recorded, the land would be used for industrial and office purposes. The presence of the church as a non-conforming use in an otherwise general employment area would not provide a clear signal of the country's commitment to the Olympics and consequently the retention of the site was unjustified, he decided.

He accepted that the church provided a valued service to a large number of people, but held that it represented an unsustainable form of development that attracted a large number of worshippers by car. Although the church provided a significant number of minibuses, he judged that the site's location was fundamentally unsuitable for attracting large numbers of people on a weekly basis.

DCS No: 31142603; Inspector: Chris Jarvis; Inquiry.

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