London gay charity hopes to keep premises

Illustrated rainbow pride flag on a white background.

London Friend hopes to buy the central London property it currently rents from Islington council after being told the building is to be sold imminently.

Founded in 1972, the charity offers counselling and support to lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans people and receives little state support.

The charity was told last Friday that the building, on Caledonian Road, was to be put up for auction in three weeks.

London Friend chief executive Matthew Halliday said he was told that the charity would not be given “preferential treatment” or time to consider its options if it wished to purchase the property.

In a letter to council chief executive John Foster, he said he was “shocked” at having been given three weeks’ notice of the sale and that the “lack of consultation” undermined the charity’s 33-year relationship with the council.

London Friend’s rent was increased by 23 per cent this year, in line with other council-let properties in the area, and Mr Halliday said he feared that a commercial landlord could raise rates dramatically.

But this afternoon, after contacted Islington council, a spokesman said the building had been removed from the auction.

Cllr Richard Greening, Islington Council’s executive member for finance said: “We have received London Friend’s letter and are happy to talk to them about the possibility of them acquiring the property. It has been removed from this auction.”

Mr Halliday, who said he had not been informed that the auction had been cancelled, said: “I am so pleased that Islington council have acknowledged our concerns and are looking to help to continue to support Islington’s and London’s LGBT residents.

“If possible I hope to be able to discuss with the council how we may be able to purchase the London Friend Centre as a continuing resource and asset for London’s LGBT community.”