Seven Kings disabled Downshall users get temporary reprieve

Disabled people will be able to continue using their popular community centre while it is transformed into a ‘free’ school.

Many of the groups using the Downshall Centre, in Aldborough Road South, Seven Kings, will be able to meet in part of the building when the primary school, run by independent schools group E-Act, opens in September because the school’s initial intake will be small.

Community groups and charities were left angry that councillors approved the plan for a 420-place free school in March, giving them just a week’s notice before making a decision.

But despite the partial reprieve some users feel that the council needs to do more to support them.

Sharon Gordon, chairman of Training 4 Transition (T4T) which helps vulnerable adults to learn workplace skills, said: “The process has been unfocused and insensitive. We have a contract until the end of May but we don’t know when they plan to start work on the school. That is next week.

“The whole process just feels like the council is simply box ticking – and I fear that we will be left in the cold.”

While T4T will remain in part of the centre in September, potting sheds that they use will be demolished to build classrooms for the reception groups and a nature garden may be flattened to make way for an access road.

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Redbridge council says it cannot provide any concrete plans until the Department for Education gives a final approval to the school plans.

Council leader Keith Prince personally apologised to groups about the way the decision was handled when the proposal was voted through by the cabinet in March, and assured anxious user groups he would do “everything possible” to help them find alternative facilities.

But Clare Davies-Jones is the project manager of Afasics, says that the “extremely insensitive” way her group has been treated renders Cllr Prince’s apology “empty window dressing.”

Cllr Alan Weisberg said: “Until the Department of Education agree E-Act’s final business case we do not have firm time scales for the project. As soon as we do we will of course inform all groups.

“We understand that some groups who are potentially more affected than others are anxious about the proposals and are seeking reassurance. The Council has done everything possible to keep the channels of communication open and address their needs.”

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