Highbury Roundhouse to be demolished

�An historic community building used by thousands of residents is to be demolished and replaced with housing – to the dismay of opponents.

Islington Council has announced plans to demolish the Highbury Roundhouse Youth and Community Centre and sell the site to a housing association which will be asked to build a new community centre alongside the homes.

The centre in Ronalds Road, Highbury, has been closed since August when a dangerous structure notice was placed on its crumbling main building.

Trustees had come up with a last-ditch repair scheme – but Islington Council rejected the proposal on Monday sealing the fate of the centre which has provided community facilities for 20 years.

Andrew Berthier, director of Highbury Roundhouse, said: “Our engineer Morton Partnership came up with a solution which gave the Highbury Roundhouse many more years and cost less than �100,000. The council has chosen the wrong solution and we will be challenging its decision. We are not talking about bricks and mortar - this is a community centre that means so much to people. I am amazed that the council has decided to ignore the masses of residents who signed the petition to save Highbury Roundhouse.”

Rob Booth, who takes his two-year-old daughter to the centre, said: “This is a great loss to all parts of the community because it provided a huge range of activities and was one of the few substantial community facilities in this part of Islington. It is disappointing that the council was not transparent about its intentions for the site. This is frustrating for people living in the area who have seen the writing on the wall for some time.”

Helen Ash, one of the people who signed the petition, said: “Why destroy such a centre which has been so well used and such a benefit to people living in the area.”

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Highbury Roundhouse offered dance classes, karate lessons and a pensioners club and the activities have been continued at six different venues in Islington since the closure.

Some staff and a nursery are still based in Ronalds Road next to the dilapidated main building - but they do not know if they will be relocated in future.

Tony Miller, secretary of Highbury Roundhouse, said: “We feel under threat. We are scattered over six sites and this can only ever be a temporary solution. They will ask us to solider on for however many years with no timescale or guarantee that a new community centre will ever be built.”

Councillor Paul Convery, executive member for planning and regeneration, said: “This repair solution from the trustees would stabilise the building but it does not fix the crumbling ground around the site or a number of other issues. We are absolutely strapped for cash and can’t throw thousands of pounds at a problem when there’s an obvious solution. And even if we did we would still be left with a pretty rundown old Victorian building.

This is the most cost effective solution which will grant the Highbury Roundhouse another 40 or 50 years with the new community centre.”

Councillor Convery said the council would continue to fund Highbury Roundhouse activities in the six venues across Islington until a new community centre is built.