Gillespie Park campaigners score Highbury victory

CAMPAIGNERS battling for Islington’s endangered ecology centre and the borough’s second-largest green space have scored a vital victory.

The Friends of Gillespie Park, which is fighting for the future of the 2.8 hectare local nature reserve in Drayton Park, Highbury, and the Islington Ecology Centre based there, has pushed the council into guaranteeing enough jobs to keep the centre open.

Staff had faced an uncertain future ever since plans to reduce their number to just one or two were leaked in December. Further pressure mounted when sweeping Islington Council cuts wiped �750,000 off the overall budget for sustainability projects in the borough.

Emma Dixon, of the Friends of Gillespie Park, said: “Ever since the proposals were leaked, we have been trying to find out what’s been going on.

“Councillors had not realised how many staff are needed to keep the place open. They had not realised how much goes on there, in terms education, outreach and opportunities for children and disabled people.

“The pressure of concerned residents and the Friends has led to the council’s realisation of how important it is. It’s not a luxury. The ecology centre and Gillespie Park are vital public services.”

The council has now pledged to keep at least four posts.

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Councillor Catherine West, the Labour leader of Islington Council, said the centre was never at risk of closure. She added: “Despite our greatly reduced budget we’ll do all we can to protect Gillespie Park and all our parks for our community.”

Gillespie Park hosts a community festival every summer, which this year will celebrate its 25th anniversary.