Protesters call for rethink over Durning Hall redevelopment plans


Protesters have urged the charity Aston-Mansfield to rethink a bid to build 78 homes on the site of Durning Hall, which would result in less community space. - Credit: Jon King

A protest has been held against a bid to redevelop the site of a community centre which has stood for 60 years.

About 60 people raised placards reading "hands off our community space" outside Durning Hall in Earlham Grove, Forest Gate, on Saturday (October 2).


Some of the protesters gathered outside Durning Hall in Earlham Grove on Saturday (October 2). - Credit: Jon King

Charity Aston-Mansfield submitted a planning application for the site's redevelopment in December, which includes plans for 78 homes, a youth hub, play and retail spaces.

Critics say the plans will result in 90 per cent of community space being lost and 47 groups losing a permanent home. They also accuse the bid of lacking "affordable" homes.

Cleona Nicholas, 13, who attends classes at East London School of Dance at the hall, said: "It's like a second home. It's where I feel happy. Without it, I don't know what I would do."

To Aston-Mansfield, she said: "Why would you take down the thing which makes us feel at home, just to make homes no one can afford?"

The charity's spokesperson said 35 per cent of the homes would be classed as "affordable", with the plan subject to extensive consultation.

Aston-Mansfield chief executive Claire Helman added: "The plans deliver much-needed, new, affordable and family homes.

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"This redevelopment will enable us to provide purpose-built, innovative spaces in which we can support children and young people in Forest Gate."

Natalie Janvrin, managing director of ShowKids Theatre School, said: "If the current design is permitted, we can confirm that, having already looked into alternative venues, it is likely we will cease to operate in Forest Gate."

Kate Christie, group leader with the Second Newham Busby Scouts, which has used the site for 60 years, said without enough space it could close or be forced out of Forest Gate.

"We desperately need our hall space," she added.

Scout Amelia Emerson, 13, said she had grown up using Durning Hall and would be sad if a redeveloped site forced groups elsewhere.

Lloyd Jeans

Lloyd Jeans said poorer families would suffer most without access to a community space near their homes. - Credit: Jon King

Sarah Tully, whose son uses the hall, said: "The massive reduction in community space is appalling. It's not supporting the community's needs."

Aston-Mansfield says it is working with the council on a strategy which sets out how it plans to ensure hall users can access spaces in the proposed scheme and local area.