Charities up in arms over closure plans for Seven Kings Community Centre

Charity groups are up in arms over a last-minute proposal to close an “essential” community centre.

The Downshall Centre, in Aldborough Road South, Seven Kings, will be turned into a free school for 420 new pupils, if the plans are voted through by a meeting of the council cabinet on Tuesday.

The move, which was only uncovered on Tuesday when it appeared on minutes of the next cabinet meeting, has been slammed by users, residents and MPs, who have accused Redbridge council of failing to provide a valid consultation process.

Diane Wynne-Fitzgerald, President of the Arthritis Self-help network, which meets regularly at Downshall, said: “There are over 20 regular users and residents of the centre many of them disabled. This community centre is essential to maintain cohesion in the area and provide accessible accommodation for a variety of users.

“No consultation was made for this decision. The first user groups heard of this proposal was a letter yesterday and the cabinet meeting is on Tuesday to rubber stamp the arrangement.”

She warned: “Closing the centre will have ramifications in other areas and with other charities in the Borough.”

Under the plans, expected to be approved by cabinet on Tuesday, the organisation E-Act would open a primary school on the site which would be free of Redbrodge council’s control. The 420 places at the school would relieve the pressure on the botough’s oversubscribed education system

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Council leader Keith Prince said: “I believe we’re agreeing that we’re going to go forward to turn part of the centre into a free school.

“There is no intention to do anything under the radar, some decisions have to be confidential by their nature which makes it hard. We have a good record of being honest about what we do and there will be consultation going forward.”

Mike Gapes, MP for Ilford South, said: “The closure of the centre would be a huge blow to its many current tenants. They were only informed of the plans in a letter posted in their pigeon holes at the centre on Tuesday.

“But it will be the many users of these organisations who will suffer most if alternative, suitable and affordable premises can’t be found.”

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