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Jesus Army bid for Jewellery Quarter drop-in centre set to collapse

Website: Birmingham Mail
Date: 7/11/2011
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PLANS to open a Jesus Army drop-in centre for prostitutes and drug addicts in Birmingham's Jewellery Quarter are on the brink of collapsing.

The controversial church group wanted to renovate offices at 33 Lionel Street.

But the building is set to be sold to a rival bidder.

Council planning officers have revealed that the owner of neighbouring Cornwall House expects to complete a deal to buy the property tomorrow with the intention of continuing the building's use as offices.

Councillors approved the Jesus Army planning application for a drop-in centre, church and cafe at 33 Lionel Street.

But a senior council official said it was “unlikely” that the new owners of the building would ever agree to allow it to be used by the Jesus Army.

Richard Gouldborn, head of planning management at the council, said the Jesus Army had insisted on pressing ahead with a formal planning application, even though the property was in the process of being sold to a third party.

He added: “If the sale were to happen my understanding is the owner's intention is to keep the property in an office-type use.”

Planning permission granted to the Jesus Army will expire after three years if the organisation is unable to open a drop-in centre. The surprise development appears to bring to an end the planning application which sparked a furious backlash in the Jewellery Quarter.

There were objections from the owners of bars, restaurants and hotels who feared their businesses would suffer from an increase in anti-social behaviour.

More than 250 residents and businesses signed petitions urging the city planning committee to throw the application out.

The protest was backed by the Jewellery Quarter Heritage and Regeneration Group.

It claimed that occupation of the building by the Jesus Army would lead to unacceptable anti-social behaviour and a dramatic increase in crime.

However, West Midlands Police raised no objection, and pointed out that a similar Jesus Army outlet in Coventry had caused no problems.