Residents win out over mega-church in planning application

By staff writers
September 5, 2009

Kingsway International Christian Centre, a Pentecostal 'mega-church', has had its appeal against a planning refusal for a major development in East London rejected.

The decision has been taken by the UK government Communities Secretary, John Denham.

Local residents say they are delighted. They want community and business facilities in the area.

Kingsway is reputedly the largest church in Britain. It also preaches a message that wealth is a sign of divine blessing - something which most Christians argue directly contradicts the Gospel message and Jesus' favouring of the poor.

KICC had its earlier application refused by the London Thames Gateway Development Corporation in February 2008, following strenuous objections from Havering council and the local community.

The church appealed and a three-week planning inquiry took place in March 2009.

The council said the site, in Rainham, is a key regeneration area in the Thames Gateway. The same argument was presented successfully to the Government nationally. The effect of such a large venue on the local environment, roads and residents was also a major concern.

Now the government has agreed with the inquiry inspector, who had cited the poor access and conflict with employment policies.

KICC's leader, Matthew Ashimolowo, tells his congregation that "God wants you rich!" His church has assets of £23 million.

The church is reported to have made a profit of £4.9 million in the last 18 months and its wealth outstrips St Paul's Cathedral's foundation by a factor of three.

The money comes from worshippers, who pay a tenth of their annual salary, often by bank transfer. A large tax bill is avoided by KICC's charitable status.

The charity behind Kingsway International Christian Centre was investigated by the Charity Commission of England and Wales between 2002 and 2005.

A report of the inquiry was released in October 2005 and concluded that there had been serious misconduct and mismanagement in the administration of the charity.

Matthew Ashimolowo acted as both a trustee and a paid employee of the charity without a constitutional basis for this and was ordered to repay £200,000 in remunerations.

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