Highbury Roundhouse too expensive to save, rules Islington Council

THE Highbury Roundhouse is set to be demolished after Islington Council ruled it would be too expensive to make it safe and usable again.

The historic building in Ronalds Road, which has provided community activities for the past 40 years, is likely to be razed to the ground soon after Christmas.

The centre has been running its services from six other Islington venues since it was served with a dangerous structures notice in August - but the latest decision means its future is even more uncertain.

Paul Convery, Islington Council’s executive member for regeneration and leisure, said: “The cracks that we found in the summer have visibly worsened. You can now fit your finger into them and some reach from the ground to the ceiling.

“It’s a dangerous building slipping down the railway embankment and the truth is that the cost of underpinning and repairing the building would be extraordinary - pushing �750,000.

“We cannot afford that, but we are giving the Highbury Roundhouse a firm promise that we will find them alternative accommodation.

“One possibility is to demolish the Highbury Roundhouse and redevelop the land for housing with a rebuilt community centre included, and we have asked some housing associations to give us estimates on how much that would cost.

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“We will hear back from them in a few days but we are absolutely clear that we don’t want the Highbury Roundhouse to close or be stuck in limbo for months.”

Highbury Roundhouse bosses have been calling on Islington Council to “send in the builders - not the bulldozers”, and even presented expert opinions which they say prove that the building can be saved for much less than �750,000. But they would consider a new home on the site if the council could promise the community centre will not be dropped from the plans somewhere down the line.

Andrew Berthier, director of Highbury Roundhouse, said: “Obviously we want to save the building, but this is not really about bricks and mortar - it’s about community activities.

“We would not say ‘no,no,no’ to a new centre on the current site but something would have to be set in stone as we don’t want to suddenly find out in two years time that we don’t have a home.

“Whatever happens though we will not be closing.”

Highbury East ward councillor John Gilbert (Lib Dem) said: “If the council doesn’t agree with the Roundhouse’s surveys then they should put the matter to arbitration rather than unilaterally imposing their view and knocking the building down.

“If the building is demolished, we urge the council to make an alternative venue available. They could easily move staff out of the defunct former Neighbourhood Office on Whistler Street and make that available to the Roundhouse.”