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Campaigners bid to save Finsbury health centre

PUBLISHED: 20:31 06 October 2010 | UPDATED: 11:14 14 October 2010

THE people of Finsbury are taking matters into their own hands to try to force the restoration of their embattled health centre. Campaigners have vowed to set up a community trust to take Finsbury Health Centre in Pine Street, Finsbury, out of NHS Islin

THE people of Finsbury are taking matters into their own hands to try to force the restoration of their embattled health centre.

Campaigners have vowed to set up a community trust to take Finsbury Health Centre in Pine Street, Finsbury, out of NHS Islington's hands - and bring about the refurbishment it desperately needs.

The Save Finsbury Health Centre campaign made the pledge at a 50-strong public meeting at Exmouth Market Centre, in Exmouth Market, Finsbury, last Thursday.

Chairwoman Barbara Jacobson said: "There's a lot of will to form a community trust to deal with the refurbishment. There's a lot of interest in it and we're confident that's what we'll end up doing."

Labour councillor Martin Klute, chairman of Islington Council's health and wellbeing scrutiny committee, is backing the ground-breaking plan - and believes the trust could easily secure enough money to bring the building up to standard.

He said: "Because of the huge national and international interest in the building as a 20th century modernist icon - which many people in conservation and architecture are desperate to see restored - there is a very high possibility of attracting heritage funding.

"If we could succeed in doing this, NHS Islington would get a restored polyclinic more or less for free. I would say it's a no-brainer."

In 2008, NHS Islington said it was going to sell the Berthold Lubetkin-designed building - which was built in 1938 to bring high-quality health care to the masses - because it would cost too much to bring it up to standard. NHS Islington has now backed down and agreed not to sell off Finsbury Health Centre - but only because it does not have the money to build a replacement.

Campaigners are furious that NHS Islington appears to be prepared to sit back and watch the Grade I-listed building deteriorate - not having enough money for the much-needed refurbishment. And they claim the building will not be truly saved until the money is found to do it up. Ms Jacobson said: "A full victory won't be here until we have an agreement to refurbish the centre."

The community is now proposing to club together and create a charitable trust, which would take on the ownership of the building and raise funds from heritage charities and other benefactors to do the refurbishment itself.

Councillor Klute believes the work could be done for £5.5million - rather than the £9.1million figure originally touted by NHS Islington.

Campaigners are considering working with the Heritage of London Trust, a charity with a track record in restoring heritage buildings, to manage the refurbishment.

A spokesman for NHS Islington said it would welcome any charitable funding proposals - but said it had received nothing concrete yet. He said: "We have always said we would be delighted to receive proposals on trust involvement. We remain committed to keeping the centre going. We have no option but to continue to operate out of the building but we have got no money to refurbish it."

But added: "Despite attempts to communicate with the Heritage of London Trust we have heard nothing back at all from them."

However Ms Jacobson responded: "That's just rubbish. We have had no trouble at all getting hold of them. The Heritage of London Trust has been offering to do something for the last year-and-a-half and we are meeting with them next week. But NHS Islington keeps insisting they practically don't exist.


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