1 November 2009

Nunhead Community Centre - some success but campaign continues

'Peckham Rye' ward covers the south east part of Nunhead so yesterday, we went along to the Nunhead Community Forum AGM. Renata has been involved with the Forum for some time and is on its executive committee. (Residents campaigning against the closure)

The meeting started with a discussion about the next steps for securing an adequate community centre for Nunhead residents. Many Nunhead residents will have been following the campaign for a proper and adequate community centre for Nunhead for some time.

It's well over two years ago that the current centre was closed after one of the residents who ran the centre contracted legionnaires disease (maybe from the centre, maybe not). It was expected that the centre would reopen after the water systems had been given the all clear. Instead the council said it couldn't reopen without some quite substantial work being done. An initial report suggested about £300K was needed so local residents set about raising that money, knowing that the centre was a vital part of the community.

Sadly, earlier this year, with £150K secured and the hope that Southwark council would stump up the rest, the Lib Dems running the council changed their mind saying the centre would simply cost too much to bring up to good standard and to maintain.

Since then residents have campaigned tirelessly for the centre to be reopened, the centre has been temporarily occupied by some of those determined to prove the centre could be brought up to scratch and the water tanks have been cleaned and then the water tested - at some personal expense to some residents.

The local Labour councillors have been closely involved with the campaign and have kept up the pressure on the council to ensure that either the centre was reopened, or if not, that an adequate and purpose built centre was built for Nunhead.

Just a few months ago, the best the council would offer was some shop fronts in the new building by the Nun's Head pub. This was rejected - it was just too small a space and it simply wasn't designed to provide the activities that once thrived at the Community Centre.

However the council has, at last, come up with a suggestion that might just work - a brand new community centre right on Nunhead Green. Over the last few weeks, a lot of very vocal campaigning from the Labour councillors, particularly Cllr Fiona Colley, and the Community Forum's campaign committee has ensured that the suggested centre has grown in size and that the money (£600K-£750K) in now clearly in the council's budget that will be agreed in February.

The great majority of people at yesterday's meeting were relatively happy with this result, the chance to match funding, and to keep pushing to get the biggest and best new community centre. I think most are very sad at giving up the fight to reopen the old centre but it's time for the community to make sure it grabs the chance of a new centre. After much questioning, we were all confident that Cllr Tim McNally's (Executive Member for Resources) promise that the money and the new centre were guaranteed and that the council would not let down Nunhead again. On this basis, the news that work on the new centre could start early next year was a source of good news for the many residents at the meeting.

What lesson does a Labour council candidate learn from this? Well, that getting money and promises out of the Lib Dem run council can be a bit of a battle of attrition but if we continue to speak up for our communities, we can win the resources that Nunhead, Peckham Rye, Honor Oak and East Dulwich urgently need from the Lib Dems up in London Bridge.

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