Scottish asylum seeker charity takes on supermarket giant Tesco in property struggle

A charity that supports black and ethnic minority women and girls is battling Tesco for ownership of a listed Glasgow property.

Saheliya, based at St Rollox House in Springburn, had signed a ten-year-lease in 2014 for use of the property, which is owned by the supermarket.

However, when the charity applied to funders for grants to make the building secure, warm and watertight, they were informed that leases of at least 25 years were required.

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Tesco initially offered to sell them the building for £305,000 – £20,000 over its valuation – rather than extend the lease.

The garden at St Rollox after care by the users of Saheliya.
The garden at St Rollox after care by the users of Saheliya.

However, the supermarket giant pushed the asking price up to £350,000 after the charity was able to raise enough money to cover the original charge.

The company has also refused to extend the lease, leaving Saheliya unable to apply for funding from the Heritage Lottery to invest in the building.

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Saheliya works with vulnerable and disadvantaged women and girls, many of whom are refugees and asylum seekers, to support their mental wellbeing and tackle isolation and loneliness.

St Rollox House when Saheliya moved in.

Chair of the charity, Shruti Jain, said: “We are baffled by Tesco’s stance on this. We want to look after the building and improve it for our users and were prepared to buy it at the original price, though initially we only asked for the lease to be extended by 15 years so we could access funds to do the work the building needs.

"We had all sorts of plans to transform the place in keeping with its railway heritage, but we’ve had the goalposts shifted a number of times.

"We did get some money from the Climate Challenge Fund and with that we were able to create a garden, and some of the women have started growing veg.

"But we’ve never even received an explanation as to why neither way forward is acceptable to Tesco. We only received a one line email to tell us the building was no longer for sale.”

She added: “People ask us ‘why don’t we move elsewhere?’ But we are in the best location for our users, in the heart of the communities we serve.

“Many of the women would not be able to reach us if we moved. They suffer from poverty, they may not speak English or be able to travel, and can be pretty much excluded from society.

"We have found over lockdown that many more women are contacting us for support, so we are needed here.”

Scottish Labour MSP Paul Sweeney said the charity had “done a great job” making the building usable.

He said: “Tesco is behaving in a very childish manner towards a charity that does amazing work in a building that is not fit for purpose. They should either sell it for a £1 or extend the lease.

"Saheliya is a great organisation doing great work, something you’d think a supermarket making massive profits in the area with one of its largest stores would choose to support.”

A Tesco spokesperson said: “We recognise that Saheliya provide important services for the community and we have worked with them to lease the property at a reduced rate.

"We are not in a position to make any long-term decisions on St Rollox House at this time.”

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