Anger as Islington Council blunder leaves residents unable to use new community centre
07:19 21 May 2013
Furious residents aren’t able to use a new community centre on their estate at the weekends after Islington Council broke its promise and let the facility to a private company seven days a week.
People on the Highbury Estate, off Highbury New Park, were looking forward to an old council building on the estate being turned into a brand new centre.
As part of the deal agreed in September a private nursery would rent the building part-time, providing funds to spruce the place up, while residents would get to use it on evenings and weekends.
But they claim a “secret” deal was done in January giving the nursery access until 6pm on weekends, leaving residents with just a few hours here and there. Islington Council said it was the result of an “error” made in the agreement
Lorna Reid, chairman of Highbury Estate Tenants Association (TRA), said: “Everyone was fine with the original agreement – it was a win win situation. We had it in writing, so we were angry and shocked when we found this out. When were they going to tell us?
“It’s either money or incompetence behind this. For six months, we’ve been lied to.”
Another part of the plan was to turn current community facilities into family housing – but the TRA has been unable to vacate the premises in the absence of a new home.
Ms Reid said: “There’s another loser in all this – the poor family waiting for a house. This would have helped the housing crisis, at least a little bit. “But now we can’t leave because we have no where to go.
“I feel sorry for the nursery too – because they will have built their business plan on using it seven days a week. I don’t understand why the council went along with this charade?”
Marco Fugazzola, who runs the Gymobree nursery, said: “We signed a contract with the council in early spring to use the building during our working hours – which includes weekends.
“Within the council there were different people talking to the different parties so there was a misunderstanding – it happens in any big organisation.
“But we feel like guests on the estate so we will talk to the TRA and try to find a solution.”
Cllr Barbara Sidnell, Islington Council’s executive member for communities said: “We always intended that the TRA would have exclusive use of the mezzanine at weekends.
“It’s frustrating an error was made on the agreement but we spotted it quickly and have already met with the nursery who are also keen to resolve this.”