Charity Commission blocked Brierfield Islamic girls school plan

Once again, our MP uses his free “From the House” column to take a swipe at his political opponents.

The Grade II listed Brierfield Mills, Brierfield, showing the Glen Way frontage.
The Grade II listed Brierfield Mills, Brierfield, showing the Glen Way frontage.

In his June 28th article, “Battle to boost Brierfield Mills”, he implies a connection between the previous government and the sale of Brierfield Mills to an Islamic charity for use as a girls’ school.

Some facts may be in order to stop this idea gaining credence.

Pendle Council had been interested in acquiring the Brierfield Mills site from the time Smith and Nephew announced its intention to vacate it, but were originally told the price would be around £5m. Council leaders were arguably slow off the mark in trying to raise the necessary funds; certainly no request for help in getting them was made to the then MP, Gordon Prentice.

Smith and Nephew, to most people’s surprise and the council’s annoyance, offered to sell the site in 2009 to the charity Islamic Help for the considerably lower sum of just over £1m. This sale went through in the winter of 2009/10.

People were even more surprised when Islamic Help announced plans in 2009 to develop the site into a 5,000-place girls’ school, and started to raise funds for this purpose. At this stage Mr Prentice moved swiftly to question whether this venture was in fact within the charitable aims of Islamic Help. The Charity Commission effectively blocked the venture, even when much scaled down and revised, and the new owners ultimately sold the site on to Pendle Council for £1.5m.

Pendle Labour Party wishes Mr Stephenson and the council success in getting a further grant from the European Regional Development Fund.

It is ironic though that he should be asking for European funding while at the same time voting for a referendum that could result in the UK leaving the European Union.

Robert Oliver

via email