Protesters rally against Upton Centre’s closure
- Credit: Archant
Hundreds of protesters have taken to the street to rally against the closure of the Upton Community Centre.
Some 200 people, from children to pensioners, braved the cold outside East Ham Town Hall to voice their support for the popular Victorian venue on Saturday.
It comes as Newham Council, who manage the centre, informed users it will now be closed “for the foreseeable future” and is working to provide alternative accommodation for its 16 regular groups.
The Claude Road venue was closed on December 19 after engineers ruled the boilers were no longer compliant with regulations.
A review was carried out by independent engineers and surveyors who said the heating system and electrics would need a complete renovation.
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Extending the centre’s life by two years would cost an estimated £750,000, according to a council spokeswoman.
It would cost a further £3.5million to fully refurbish it for an extra 15 to 20 years of use.
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Protestors said the closure has left groups that use the centre struggling to maintain their classes in alternative locations.
Mehul Bhudia teaches Hinduism classes, allowing children to learn about their culture and take GCSEs and A-levels in the subject.
“We’ve got children set to take exams in the summer but nowhere to take them,” he said.
“They’ve offered us space in a library but it’s not suitable to teach in, there are 40 to 50 children there each week.”
One of the groups without a new venue is the pre-school, which chair Aisha Sheikh said is cheaper for parents than the alternatives in the area.
“We invest everything back into the nursery, we’ve paid for a lot of equipment and a new play area,” she said.
“If we find a new location, it takes us 25 weeks to register with Ofsted. We’ve got enough to pay our staff for another three months but we may have to let them go after that.”
Cllr Ken Clark, cabinet member for building community and public affairs, said: “Understandably the unplanned closure of the centre last month has caused much disruption to the centre’s users and the council has been making every effort possible to find suitable alternative accommodation for the users and the nursery.
“The council now has to consider the options for the future of the centre and community provision in Plaistow, while taking on board some of the heaviest cuts in funding from central government.”