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UK: Mega-church near Olympics site rejected by planners

Evening Standard, UK
Jan. 29, 2008
Mira Bar-Hillel • Tuesday January 29, 2008

Plans for a US-style evangelical “mega-church” near the Olympics site have been rejected by a London council.

Havering has turned down plans for the £70 million complex, which would have seated 8,000 worshippers.

The plans for the church had been submitted by Kingsway International Christian Centre after it was paid £13.5 million by the London Development Agency to leave its Hackney headquarters to make way for the 2012 Olympics.

Havering councillors unanimously objected to the proposal because of the inadequacy of local transport and conflict with the strategic employment policy for the area.

However, the “mega-church” could still get the go-ahead if the London Thames Gateway Development Corporation gives it the green light next month.

The Christian centre was founded 15 years ago and is thought to be Europe’s fastest growing church.

Its charismatic Nigerian founder Pastor Matthew Ashimolowo was ordered to pay back £200,000 to the church after a Charity Commission investigation found he had used a church credit card to buy a Florida timeshare and received £120,000 to celebrate his birthday, including an £80,000 car.

Hundreds of thousands of pounds were also transferred abroad, the commission found, “with little supporting documentation”.

New trustees and management structures have since been put in place, and the church is keen to stress the problems have been put behind it.

Mr Ashimolowo, 55, is a convert from Islam. He founded the KICC in 1992 with 200 members.

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