Veteran Independent Peterborough councillor Charles Swift tells Andy Gall what he thinks about the planned closure of St Anthony’s Catholic Church Fletton by the Scalabrini Fathers following a report that the building was declared unsafe. Broadcast at 07:40 on Monday 23rdAugust 2010 in the Peterborough Breakfast Show on BBC Radio Cambridgeshire.
AG: Over a hundred people turned out to protest at the closure of Peterborough’s last Italian church. The owners of St Anthony’s Church in Fletton told the congregation that the building was unsafe, and would be closed immediately. Councillor Charlie Swift is on the line and joins us now. Good morning Councillor.
CS: Good morning.
AG: Good to talk to you. So were you at the protest then?
CS: I was at the protest yesterday, and I fully support what they’re trying to do.
AG: And do you think the building is unsafe? Because that’s what ..
CS: I don’t think it’s unsafe at all. It’s all a lot of cobblers, it really is. All they’re doing, .. those people, to be quite honest and truthful, are being treated like village peasants, they really are. The establishment should be thoroughly ashamed of themselves. All you’re witnessing is someone wanting to speculate and make a lot of money out of turning the area into a building plot. Now the City Council could squash this today. It could squash it today by saying to those developers, those monks in hiding, those people that are supposed to represent Christian principles, that haven’t got any in my opinion at all, the Council could say to them today look, we don’t consider the building unsafe, but if you do, and you put an application in for any other development, it will not be approved. We will only approve the existing use of that land for a parish facility, for a church, as it has been for the last seventy years.
AG: OK Councillor, there’s some strong view you aired there for a moment.
CS: Well my mother was elected ..that used to be a polling station .. in nineteen fifty two my mother was elected to councillor for that area from that particular Fairfield Hall, that’s what it was called, the Church. Unfortunately the following year I lost by twelve votes. But it doesn’t alter the fact my family have been associated, representing that area, my sister Mrs Chalmers and my mother, for over fifty years, and I think they’re treating those Catholic people, who are the salt of the earth in that particular area .. And it’s no good, with great respect to Father Dennis, and I love the old boy, he’s a lovely old boy, but you can’t keep offering the Church in the centre of the city, and having people running in and out like sausage machines at every half hour.
AG: Charlie, what’s the future for the congregation?
CS: Well the future for the congregation is for somebody to see common sense, get round the table, and that should remain as a church. Damn it all, within the Catholic community, even attending there, you’ve got bricklayers, you’ve got architects, you’ve got every Tom Dick and Harry that could refurbish the damn place tomorrow.
AG: You see the Catholic Scalabrini Fathers have told the BBC that they believe that the building, the Church has structural problems, and that the site is to be sold.
CS: Well what a load of .. they tell them within a week it’s got structural problems. All they’re doing, and I repeat it again, and I don’t know who they are, but I’d love to meet them. They’re faceless people, you know. they won’t answer the questions that have been asked by the community. Where is it unsafe? And if it’s unsafe, why isn’t it boarded up and got things around it so that the public .. if it’s falling down, there’s people walking past it every five minutes. No, they’re being taken for a ride by pure speculators. Don’t call them Scalabrini Fathers to me, because they’ve no idea what principles of Christianity is about at all.
AG: OK. They’re your views, and your views alone. That’s Councillor Charlie Swift on the line. As I say the Catholic Scalabrini Fathers who own the Church have told the BBC the building has a structural problem and the site is to be sold.