Unholy alliance of God and Mammon in Connaught shopping village

I was interested to read your article about the Church Commissioners and their abrasive stance towards their tenants in what is now pretentiously called Connaught Village . As I think you know, there was something of a furore when they tried to terminat

I was interested to read your article about the Church Commissioners and their abrasive stance towards their tenants in what is now pretentiously called 'Connaught Village'.

As I think you know, there was something of a furore when they tried to terminate the lease - and livelihood - of one of the few business that flourishes in the enclave: Elegant Cleaners.

Happily, given the 700-signature petition, media publicity and Cherie Blair's support, this has now been resolved, although the business is being forced out of its premises of nearly 40 years and will be re-installed in a much smaller property in Kendal Street.

Please know that I was very active in the campaign to save Elegant, and I have been in touch with Rosemarie Jones of the Church Commissioners, in that I believe they have a tenuous grasp on the dynamics of, and footfall in, the so-called Village.


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They are intent on leasing shops to chic, small vanity ventures which have little or no appeal to residents, and which are bereft of patronage.

Connaught Village is not Marylebone High Street, Regent's Park Road, Hampstead, etc. But the Commissioners opt for businesses which open and close with regularity - and yet were happy to see the closure of Elegant Cleaners, which was a very vibrant, very profitable enterprise, highly valued by the local community. What was the logic, or profit-motive there?

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We have four estate agents. We have four cafes. We have two bathroom shops. A new, absurd handbag shop. A new, absurd jewellers in Porchester Place. All this with various other niche boutiques which fail to attract custom and so on.

The locality requires shops that have some use/application: e.g. the cleaners, the newsagents, the pharmacy. These are highly valued but will be forced to close if the high rent increases are levied.

I have suggested to Ms Jones that she does a walkabout with me (early January) so that I can show her those ventures which are simply vanity outlets. She has agreed to do so.

A straw poll of my neighbours elicited a desire for a deli and hardware/electrical shop. I have also suggested to Ms Jones that the commissioners should canvas people on a Saturday, say, and ask what businesses they would like to see in the Village.

At the very least, they would be seen to be listening. The draconian rent increases they are imposing must surely have contingency on the parlous state of their pension fund. As I have said to Ms Jones, I find the Church Commissioners' approach to their tenants to be an unholy mix of God and Mammon.

My own view remains that the Commissioners are behaving in an unseemly way, given their provenance, and one wonders if the highest echelons of the Church (Rowan Williams, for example) is party to what is going on?

Jenny Sheridan

W2

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