Campaign to save community halls

December 23, 2008 2:40 PM
By Brentwood Gazette reporter in www.thisisessex.com
Old House users with Lib Dem councillors and borough council candidates

Lib Dems and facility users campaign to save Old House earlier this year

Groups which regularly use three community halls would struggle to move anywhere else, say campaigners fighting to prevent their sale.

Brentwood's Liberal Democrats voted against the council's Asset Management Plan - which sets out how land and property is handled - because Keys Hall in Warley, Old House in Shenfield Road and Hutton Parish Hall are to be disposed of.

In their place the council is planning a £2.5million renovation of Merrymeade House in Sawyers Hall Lane into nine affordable housing apartments and a community centre.

Cllr Karen Chilvers said: "My Liberal Democrat colleagues and I have fought against the disposal of Keys Hall for almost two years now and have watched with sadness as this well-used community facility has fallen into a poor state of repair.

"I understand that the kitchen is no longer functioning and for some time it has badly needed refurbishment."

The Liberal Democrats have also campaigned against the closure of Old House as this provides a much needed town centre facility.

Cllr Chilvers added: "A number of Old House users, including the very popular 'Learning for Pleasure' group, will find it difficult to fully relocate to Merrymeade House as many of their users rely on public transport to get them to their classes.

"The extra distance to Merrymeade is prohibitive, unless you have a car.

Cllr Karen Chilvers

Cllr Karen Chilvers has campaigned with her colleagues to save Keys Hall and Old House

"There were a number of options for the refurbishment of this building and we suggested renting the upstairs rooms to small businesses and bringing the larger, downstairs meeting room up to a good standard and continue to make it available to community groups. Sadly, to no avail."

The Tories say that Keys Hall has come to the end of its natural life and it is only suitable for big events.

They add the number of bookings have dropped dramatically and doubt the number would increase, even if money was spent on a revamp.

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