Ex bowling club to become private nursery despite hundreds calling for community space

The shuttered bowling club in Elmhurst Gardens will turn into a nursery

A petition signed by more than 600 people suggested the old bowling club in Elmhurst Gardens could be turned into a café or community space. - Credit: Kerry Oliver

A former bowling club in a South Woodford park will be taken over by a private nursery - despite more than 600 signatures on a petition calling for it to be used as a community space.

The venue, in Elmhurst Gardens, closed in November and residents have been lobbying Vision Redbridge Culture and Leisure (RCL) and Redbridge Council to make it usable by the whole community.

Vision RCL, which runs parks and open spaces in the borough, decided to approve kGems Nursery (formerly known as Knowledgems Nursery) to open there instead.

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Mum-of-two Kerry Oliver said the park has been a lifeline for her children. - Credit: Kerry Oliver

kGems already operates two nurseries out of Clayhall and Valentines parks.

A petition by community group Elmhurst for Everyone has more than 600 signatures and is calling on the space to be open to all users of the park and not just for a private nursery.

The group has also raised concerns about the tendering process for the venue.

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Submissions for tenders ran from February 9 to 23 but in Vision's annual report submitted to the charity commission, which was signed on March 2, it said one of the future goals was to change usage of two former bowls pavilions into nurseries to generate additional income.

People who submitted tenders were only informed of a decision on April 18.

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Mum Kerry Oliver, who said the park has been a lifeline for her two children throughout the last year, said: "It seems like it was a done deal and they knew all along it would go to the nursery."

A spokesperson for Redbridge Council said the decision to go with kGems Nursery was only made early last week by Vision RCL.

Kerry added: "Vision is a charity and it's completely at odds with their mission.

"The nursery is only catering to a small section of the community in the one real resource that the park has got."

A council spokesperson said Vision received several proposals including one for a café and community space.

"After careful consideration of appropriateness to the park environment, experience of the proposal holder, overall benefits to the park and community, its social value, and the overall injection of funds, Vision RCL offered the location to Knowledgems Nursery.

"Knowledgems Nursery are committed to supporting and working with the Friends of Elmhurst Gardens.

"Their additional income raised will go towards the maintaining and running of all our parks within the borough.”

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