Centre's fate is in balance

February 20, 2008 12:00 AM
By Piers Meyler in Brentwood Gazette
Nina Cutbush, prospective candidate for Warley, and the run-down Keys Hall community hall

Nina Cutbush, prospective candidate for Warley, and the run-down Keys Hall community hall

A Row has broken out amidst claims that a community centre is being deliberately run down.

Liberal Democrat councillors say booking costs for Keys Hall in Eagle Way, Warley, have become prohibitively expensive.To make things worse, they claim that reducing the booking period from six to three months has made it virtually impossible to book the venue for a wedding or major event.

Keys Hall is the largest facility available for hire in the area but many groups and clubs, aware of its planned closure, have already moved to the smaller Nightingale Centre in Pastoral Way.

Conservative councillors have also said only a few people would use the hall, even if it was revamped.

But Lib Dem party leader Cllr David Kendall continued: "Having looked through the charges, it is no surprise that some people have gone to the Nightingale centre.

"To book all day Saturday is £156 more than the Nightingale Centre, and £104 more to book a Saturday night."

Accusing Brentwood council of turning its back on the hall, he added: "If you are trying to give the death knell to Keys Hall you are doing a good job."

A valuation is currently being sought for Keys Hall.

This information will then be put before councillors to enable them to make a decision on its future.

Liberal Democrat councillor Karen Chilvers said: "What is most galling about this is the fact that a 750-strong petition was presented in May last year against its closure and the depth of feeling is not being taken into account.

"The Conservatives even suggested that this huge petition is now irrelevant.

"But there are still groups, such as Holdens Archers, who will be homeless if Keys Hall is disposed of and it is certainly not irrelevant to them."

But Tory Warley representative Cllr David Tee said: "It is only a venue for big events. Sometimes things do come to an end.

"There is a time when things get too old and run down. I think there are only a few people who want to use it, even if it was revamped."