Community centre demonstrators tell Town Hall: Save Our Hall!
Camden pledges improved facilities after redevelopment project in Highgate Newtown
16 October, 2018 — By Helen Chapman
DEMONSTRATORS lined up outside a community centre on Thursday with the message: “Save our hall!”
Users of the Highgate Newtown Community Centre fear they will lose the facility in the council’s plan to redevelop the site in Bertram Street.
Among other activities, the hall is used for exercise classes for the elderly, while the Fresh Youth Academy (FYA) holds drama, dance and music workshops at the building.
Tamar Swade, who teaches Pilates at the hall, said: “The hall has really exceptional acoustics as well as having a gym at the back, offices and a kitchen. It’s a real community hub and they’re not replicating it in their plans.”
She added: “This hall is a treasure for the community. It’s like nothing else around. It is suitable for so many things. It’s a tragedy to knock it down. To me, it’s nothing short of vandalism.”
Town Hall chiefs want to revamp the site with housing, a sports hall and youth facilities, and say users will see brand-new facilties.
The source of a long-running dispute in the neighbourhood, the most recent designs for the site were revealed in September with plans for 34 new private homes and seven affordable units. The council insist a centre for the community of the same size will be included in the revamp.
But Mary Cane, a former Mayor of Camden who was among the protesters, said: “It is locally listed, which makes it more disgusting that it is getting shut down. It seems sensible to keep the Fresh Youth Academy open. It just seems nonsense to flog it. It’s a real sell-out.”
The group have started a petition calling for the Fresh Youth Academy to be saved as part of the council plans.
Other objectors have complained that the site is being overdeveloped after the number of flats that will be created was increased.
The council said its proposals are under consultation.
Regeneration chief Councillor Danny Beales said: “In the current proposed designs, FYA are set to receive a brand-new, purpose-built facility with no loss of useable floor space. The latest design proposals will enable FYA to hold activities across a single floor, rather than the split-level arrangement that formed part of the consented scheme.”
He added: “When complete, the scheme will offer a range of more flexible spaces that can accommodate FYA and HNCC hosting an even wider variety of activities from sports to arts. The gospel hall where FYA currently host activities is listed in Camden and we are conscious of its local significance. After FYA vacate the site, we will convert the hall into new homes. The sale of these new homes will help to pay for the new and improved facilities at HNCC, enabling groups like FYA to continue offering services for years to come.”