Court orders closure of former Swanley convent site

Published: Thursday, 17th May 2018

A former Swanley convent has been ordered by the courts to close for three months following anti-social behaviour and safety concerns.

The case brought about by Sevenoaks District Council, with the support of partner agencies, was heard at Sevenoaks Magistrates’ Court on Friday 11 May 2018 under the Anti-Social Behaviour Act (2014).

Mr Mustafa Kemal Mustafa, the leaseholder of former The Convent of Mercy for the past four years, was told the property would be closed by the Council for up to three months with immediate effect.

Further court orders were granted allowing the Council to recover any costs for clearing, securing and maintaining the premises during the closure period.

The site had been subject to ongoing anti-social behaviour and safety concerns dating back to 2014.

  • Kent Police have attended the site to follow up all reports, have seized a stolen vehicle from the site and have addressed reports of anti-social behaviour and crime
  • The Council issued a Community Protection Warning and Community Protection Notice in January and October 2016 following anti-social behaviour and litter
  •  In April 2014, and again in January 2016, the Council served abatement notices for bonfire and noise nuisances
  •  The Council issued four informal warnings to clear up and repair the building between 2015 and 2016 and two further informal building control warnings following unauthorised building works
  • Two planning enforcement notices were issued in 2016 following unauthorised building works that required planning permission
  • No Council Tax had been paid on the property since 2014
  • Following fire safety concerns, Kent Fire & Rescue Service issued an Improvement Notice in March 2016 and a Prohibition Notice in March 2017
  • The Environment Agency issued a Stop Notice in June 2017 as there were concerns the site was being used as car repair business without permission
  • The Health and Safety Executive served five safety notices following concerns about the safety of the electrical supply and other safety issues
  • Other concerns related to untaxed vehicles based at the building and the sale of second-hand goods and other business activities without permission.

The property has now been closed and the electricity provider has cut off the supply and it was deemed a dangerous property.

Cllr Roddy Hogarth, the Council’s Cabinet Member for Community Safety, says:
“Neighbours of the Convent of Mercy have endured unacceptable, anti-social behaviour for far too long and the safety of those living there was at risk. Despite the Council and its partners taking action on a range of issues, the property leaseholder and freeholders have failed to adequately deal with the problems. We take a zero tolerance approach to anti-social behaviour and it is right that we, with our partners’ help, took action to close this property to protect local people and others residing there.”

Kent Police Inspector, Nick Finnis, adds:
“The decision by the courts reflects the detrimental impact this location has been having on the local community, including to a large number of residents who live close by. Ultimately, antisocial behaviour issues can make people’s lives a misery and we hope the work undertaken with our partner agencies to help gather a case for this closure order will reassure the community that this type of activity will simply not be tolerated and that we will respond with appropriate action. We are grateful for the support also shown from residents and would continue to encourage members of the public to feel confident to report crime and antisocial behaviour via 101 or via our online reporting system:”

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