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It was a long awaited victory, for the parish members and congregation of St Mary of Zion Ethiopian Orthodox church (also known as St Mary Tserha Sion Ethiopian Tewahedo ) on Tuesday evening, at Hackney Town Hall. The planning sub-committee approved planning permission for their new church at 229 Lower Clapton Road.
Close to 100 supporters packed themselves into the public gallery, and treated members of the council and the public to a spectacle never seen at a sub committee meeting. Sure it got a little rowdy, but who could blame the very grateful supporters for being so joyous after a year of waiting for the go ahead from the council to renovate their building.
The group has been embroiled in a “planning war” with opponents to their renovation plans, who have campaigned hard for years to have the building turned into a cinema, citing one of it’s many uses in the past.
A spattering of representatives of The Hackney Society, Friends of Clapton Cinematography (FCCT), Clapton Arts Trust (CAT), Clapton Pond Neighbourhood Action Group (CPNAG) all made a last ditch attempt, to protest the churches plans. But in the end it was unanimously agreed to grant permission.
A spokesperson for St Marys said last night: “You couldn’t replace the energy from our members inside the chambers. Even council officials and members of the public joined in the clapping for a little while.
“Hackney Council got to see the people the decision affects most, and we complied with all the rules and by-laws. It’s not just a building.
“Now we can get on with building the church we have waited 38 years for”.
Along with being a place of worship, the parish aim to roll out a community plan that will include offering a place of sanctuary to disadvantaged and underachieving youths and those influenced by postcode and gang related crime, by providing positive role models to tackle these issues. They intend to work with other organizations to achieve a common goal.
Last month the church group brought to Hackney Hive’s attention, what they claimed to be constant harassment from neighbourhood special interest groups such as the FCCT and CAT.