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Convent of Mercy, Swanley, shut down after anti-social behaviour dating back four years

By Ed McConnell

A former convent plagued by the most unholy of behaviour has been shut down.

The Convent of Mercy, in Sycamore Drive, Swanley, used to be the home of nuns but over the past few years its residents have proved to be more like the neighbours from hell.

But following action taken by Sevenoaks District Council the building, which is next door to St Bartholomew Primary and yards from Bright Sparks Pre-School, will be closed for three months and the electricity will be cut off while leaseholder Mustafa Kemal Mustafa addresses concerns.

The Convent of Mercy, Sycamore Drive, Swanley (2056989)
The Convent of Mercy, Sycamore Drive, Swanley (2056989)

The ruling was made at Sevenoaks Magistrates' Court under the Anti-Social Behaviour Act.

Further court orders were granted allowing the Council to recover any costs for clearing, securing and maintaining the premises during the closure period.

It follows numerous actions being taken dating back to 2014.

Abatement notices were served due to foul smelling bonfires and unacceptable noise in 2014 and 2016, while Kent Police have repeatedly attended the site and at one point seized a stolen car.

Sevenoaks District Council issued community protection warnings twice in 2016 following anti-social behaviour and litter.

It went on to warn the occupants six times between 2015 and 2016 about cleanliness and unauthorised building works before serving two planning enforcement notices agisnt the owners of teh building, who have not paid council tax for four years.

Following fire safety concerns, Kent Fire & Rescue Service issued an improvement notice in 2016 and a prohibition notice a year later.

The Environment Agency issued a stop notice in 2017 as there were concerns the site was being used as car repair business without permission.

The Health and Safety Executive served five safety notices following concerns about the safety of the electrical supply and other safety issues

Other concerns related to untaxed vehicles based at the building and the sale of second-hand goods and other business activities without permission.

The property has now been closed and the electricity provider has cut off the supply and it was deemed a dangerous property.

Cllr Roddy Hogarth, the council’s cabinet member for community safety, said: “Neighbours of the Convent of Mercy have endured unacceptable, anti-social behaviour for far too long and the safety of those living there was at risk.

"Despite the council and its partners taking action on a range of issues, the property leaseholder and freeholders have failed to adequately deal with the problems. We take a zero tolerance approach to anti-social behaviour and it is right that we, with our partners’ help, took action to close this property to protect local people and others residing there.”

Kent Police Inspector, Nick Finnis, added: “The decision by the courts reflects the detrimental impact this location has been having on the local community, including to a large number of residents who live close by.

"Ultimately, antisocial behaviour issues can make people’s lives a misery and we hope the work undertaken with our partner agencies to help gather a case for this closure order will reassure the community that this type of activity will simply not be tolerated and that we will respond with appropriate action.

"We are grateful for the support also shown from residents and would continue to encourage members of the public to feel confident to report crime and antisocial behaviour via 101 or via our online reporting system: www.kent.police.uk.”

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