The Independent London Newspaper
18th February 2019

Plan to pull down Highgate Newtown Community Centre 'cooked up behind closed doors'

    The Highgate Newtown Community Centre

    Published: 26 August, 2016
    By DAN CARRIER

    A £23.7m project to rebuild Highgate Newtown Community Centre is set to go before planning chiefs in the coming months after the centre’s trustees came out in favour of the project. 

    The centre, in Bertram Street, has been earmarked for renovation as the building – once home to the Territorial Army and also used as a prison day-release workshop – is expensive to run.

    Under the plans, the current centre will be razed to the ground. The Town Hall will build 31 private homes on the site and use the proceeds of the sales to re-build the centre on a section of the land. It will include a new sports hall and youth facilities, and a new through route from Bertram Street to Croftdown Road.

    But the council have been accused of pushing through a project that is not supported locally.

    Campaigners say the work is unnecessary as the current buildings could be renovated, as an earlier proposal suggested. 

    A senior, long-serving trustee has resigned over the row. The trustee, who did not want to be named, said the council was claiming the project had the backing of the centre’s board but, at a recent meeting, they had been asked to vote solely on a new building – and not allowed to consider height, mass and the number of private homes.

    The Fresh Youth Academy, a dedicated youth club facility based on the site, would also be affected by the plans with their new building, in a wing of the centre, also earmarked for demolition.

    The trustee said: “Since the unused buildings were identified by councillors in the ’70s as having the potential to meet the urgent needs of a community traumatised by planning blight and redevelopment, HNCC [Highgate Newtown Community Centre] has kept its promise to bring the community together to benefit everyone. This is a success story, so why bring it to an end?

    “Why pull down buildings which could be retrofitted to be more energy efficient? It would be so much easier to install solar panels and insulate the walls of the main hall.” 

    The trustee said that the Fresh Youth Academy had only been renovated and reopened in 2015, at a cost of £300,000, adding: “It is evident to all who spend time in HNCC that the need for services is increasing – subsidised meals in the café, foodbank items, that quick phone call to sort out an emergency, free classes for health and wellbeing and social interaction. 

    “If HNCC services are a priority, then don’t close the centre down to build 30 or more private units which will put HNCC at risk. If the intention is to sweat an asset where the land is owned by Camden to generate a surplus, then the pros and cons should be looked at and residents should be involved in a more transparent process.” 

    Ian Williams, who has lived on the site of the centre with his family for 15 years, claims Camden Council promised a month ago to rethink the scheme as the economic climate had changed following the Brexit vote – and said that they had vowed to consult neighbours on any new scheme. Mr Williams said the latest news has reneged on that promise.

    He added: “It is complete fiction to say the community here is happy with the plans. Half of the people around here do not know anything about them, and the other half are really upset about a project to stick a six-storey block at the end of a small cobbled street. This is a project cooked up behind closed doors, rubber-stamped by some trustees, and then pushed forward.”

    Highgate ward Labour councillor Sally Gimson dismissed claims that the plans were being railroaded through. 

    She said: “There has been wide consultation. It is backed by the board. This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity which will last for at least the next 50 years.”

    She added that there would be a meeting with “project champions” in September before the scheme goes to the planning department for consideration­.

    Labour councillor Phil Jones, the Town Hall’s environment chief, added: “We think we have a scheme we can take to planning. We have the support of the trustees. 

    “We know people have different views and there will be a session in September before we submit the planning application.”

     

    Comments

    Highgate community centre

    I am now 54 and use to use the youth club on that site 44 years ago.!!! Why build all private houses??Local people need more council dwellings.Unless you rich the house there will be in affordable!! so many smilies use the centre.Rebuild a new centre,a sports hall and youth club ..please.Make the site work for all,Not just the rich

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