Dad and son living in a church tower fight to stop it being turned into flats

My London News are reporting on a campaign by local artist Henrik Delehag, who lives and works in Christchurch tower, on Church Rise. They are trying to raise £1m in order to buy the property from the current land lord so that they can turn it into an artists’ haven:

The full article gives a bit more context as well as a few new images of inside the nine storey tower, noting we previously covered the attempted sale of the flat in the tower back in February, when it was listed for £1.5m, see 2 bedroom flat for sale in Church Rise.

A bit more information on the campaign and about Henrik can also be found at his online store, where donations to his campaign can be made, alongside the sale of songs of his works:

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Don’t get it. Isn’t the church grade 2 listed. So it can’t be demolished and turned into flats? And the tower is already developed into living space over several floors. Sounds like it’s for sale for £1 m now instead of £1.5 m.

More info from the artist here, includes many more pics.

https://delehag.com/totem

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There are already a number of flats in the church which was largely converted years ago. There also remains a community space which is used by a daycare centre, a choir. The spire is a single property spread over many levels and was recently listed for sale though I can’t find the listing right now.

Edit: reading the link Thor gave it sounds as if the concern is the spire could be split into more flats? And the proposal is to change it to an art space. Interesting prospect.

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Is it this one? Listed to rent?

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yes that’s it. If you follow the video tour (which is a really good tour of all floors, with views) its a little difficult to see how the spire could be converted into more than one flat, given constraint of space and the need for stairs.

The artist claims to have raised over £250k towards the £1m to buy it by selling quite large quantities of his art work.

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If I was the landlord / freeholder I would be slightly worried that the current tenant is apparently selling the stones of the building.

What!??! It’s a Grade II Listed building! Surely he can’t legally do that?

The spire post dates my house and I love the idea that the former occupants would have watched the spire grow up.

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I don’t think he is literally. It’s just representative of an investment from what it looks like.

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I can’t see anything on his website that indicates he’s selling the stones of the building! It’s his artwork that’s for sale.

Yes he’s selling a kind of sponsorship / patronage of various spire features for a fixed amount. Has someone really already pledged £50 k to be patron of the clock. Eye watering. Or perhaps visionary.

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Yup - this is it. The “sale” was virtual. It’s been changed on his website now but earlier this year you could “purchase” a stone.

I don’t really understand - is the idea to buy the apartment from the current owner? Who would then own it? A collective or the artist himself?

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You’d assume it would be owned as an asset of a company with appropriate shareholders or some such but it’s not that clear it is?

Hope this link to his Instagram works here. Every stone has been mapped using a drone and numbered so that a stone certificate can be issued to each purchaser of art work. Got to admire what has gone in to this project.

It’s not yet clear to me who will own the building but the artist seems sincere and is clear that he wants it to be a kind of community asset and talks of setting up a trust of some kind.

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Putting money into this sounds highly risky to me.

  1. The land still appears to be owned by the Church of England so the £1mil is most likely only buying a lease and if that’s true how can you sell individual parts of it?
  2. He intends to set up a trust. Where is all the money going in the meantime? And what guarantees are there that it will be returned if the venture fails?
  3. The spire is part of a listed building with attendant expensive upkeep bills and everything that the landlord deems to need doing will require permission from Historic England. Who will pay for that?
  4. And probably other drawbacks I haven’t thought of.
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But apart from that seems like a pretty good investment…

But what’s a “Totem of Reality” and what does “Vullonday” mean?

I wonder if the CofE is aware of this? The Spire is a leasehold flat. I assume that the freeholder is the CofE? But even if not, there is sometimes liability for maintenance and repairs to Church buildings that has come as a costly surprise to some. It’s called Chancel Repair Liability. Of course I don’t know if that would be the case here, but if I were investing, I’d want to know more.

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Good questions here and you’d be nuts to invest money on the strength of what we know. But no one is investing are they? If they were there would be a raft of financial services regulation to navigate. People are just being encouraged to buy artwork that they like at a certain price. The rest is just marketing where he explains what he’d like to do with the proceeds.

If he doesn’t hit target, he can’t buy the tower but there’s no money to return - he will have made some money by legitimately selling his work.

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Surely, if that happens, as the aim is a charitable one and most of the sales of his artwork would not have occurred, the artist will donate a big chunk of the proceeds to help artists in some way.

I genuinely don’t get it. His website says “ Artist Henrik Delehag is raising the funds to prevent a 19th century south-London church Tower from being turned into luxury flats.” but surely the tower has been turned into luxury flats already quite some time ago. And it will stay as flats unless the freeholder changes their mind.

If there’s a detailed plan to do something with the flat (which as far as I can see he’s currently living in and using as a studio) then maybe that can be shared.

To be fair, he does say: Should we fail with the mission to secure the Tower, you will be reimbursed the full amount.

That’s in the Patronage page. So I imagine it won’t apply if someone’s bought a piece of art, rather than a Patronage, which is the stone equivalent of all those campaigns about adopting something cuddly with a face (the sort where tiger cubs win over endangered slugs everything time).

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