How the news was reported in the Waltham Forest Guardian
The Christian Kitchen sees 30 churches team up to provide more than 50 meals each night to vulnerable people in Walthamstow, east London. Its its chair of trustees is Norman Coe, an elder at Blackhorse Road Baptist Church.
Last year its licence was revoked by Waltham Forest Council due to concerns about anti-social behaviour, with the Council suggesting an out-of-town site in a lay-by off the busy North Circular Road as an alternative.
The Christian Kitchen argued that this site, some 40-50 minutes away, was unsafe and so unsuitable that it would in effect lead to its closure.
On Monday High Court judge Mrs Justice Simler DBE ruled in the kitchen’s favour and said that the Council’s decision to revoke the licence was unlawful, because it did not properly take into account the likely negative impact on vulnerable service users. (A recent survey showed that over 70 per cent of users were homeless.) Its position that there was no evidence to suggest the relocation will affect users’ ability to access the soup kitchen ‘fails to accord with reality or common sense’. She quashed the decision and ordered the Council to reconsider its proposals.
‘We are delighted and relieved that we are able to carry on,’ said Norman.
‘We feel vindicated, because we thought the allegation of anti-social behaviour was unjustified. On the contrary, rather than contributing to anti-social behaviour, we take the view the kitchen alleviates anti-social behaviour.’
Norman cited research carried out by his minister Malcolm Patten, who found that Walthamstow had lower indicators of anti-social behaviour compared with similar places without a soup kitchen such as Hackney.
‘If the service had closed, it would have been catastrophic for the users,’ continued Norman. ‘They would not have had a meal each evening. They would have resorted to going through bins, unsavoury as that sounds, and stealing. Crime rates would have gone up.’
In a statement deputy leader Clyde Loakes said the council was disappointed with the decision, but would ‘continue to talk with Christian Kitchen to find a way forward for both users of the kitchen and residents nearby’.
The Christian Kitchen is a well-known local institution attracting praise from politicians and is strongly supported locally. It began 25 years ago and is now supported predominately, but not exclusively, by the area’s 30 churches, whose members take it in turns one night a month to make and distribute the food.
Norman, a support worker at a local hostel, said they are looking at ways to expand what they offer beyond food and signposting. ‘These guys need befriending,’ he explained.
‘This is the church in action. We are meeting the needs of people in an unfortunate situation, and working together without theological disagreement: everyone knows that Jesus fed the poor.’