Election candidate slams plans for Durning Hall in Forest Gate

Durning Hall opened in 1959. Picture: Google

Durning Hall opened in 1959. - Credit: Google

A by-election candidate has criticised plans to redevelop the site of a community centre.

Lois Austin condemned the proposals for Durning Hall in Earlham Grove, Forest Gate, saying community space will be lost.

She said: "These proposals will see Forest Gate, and Newham as a whole, lose a long-established and much-used community facility.

"The new blocks will do nothing to resolve Newham’s extreme housing crisis."

Charity Aston-Mansfield submitted the bid for 78 homes - 27 of which it describes as affordable - in December.

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Ms Austin, who is the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition candidate in the East Ham Central ward by-election and on the list for London Assembly elections, said: "Just a third of the promised 78 flats will be for ‘affordable use’.

"But will even this paltry amount be met?"

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The bid includes space to help youngsters develop business skills; a play area and more than 540sqm of retail floorspace.

The charity reports longstanding issues with Durning Hall's buildings and says the site is no longer financially sustainable.

Ms Austin said the plans showed community use will be cut to just 10 per cent of its previous size with no guarantee of public use.

Draft plans to redevelop the site of Durning Hall in Forest Gate have been released. Shown here is t

Draft plans for the site of Durning Hall show the view from Earlham Grove looking east towards Woodgrange Road. - Credit: Aston-Mansfield

Claire Helman, Aston-Mansfield's chief executive, said: "We are pleased to have submitted the planning application for Durning Hall, which will secure our future in Newham and enable us to continue our charitable work in the borough.

"As well as delivering much-needed homes, we’re excited to draw on our unique expertise to develop innovative spaces to support children and young people in Forest Gate."

Ms Austin criticised a public consultation for taking place when people were "overwhelmed" by the pandemic and urged Newham to refuse planning permission.

"Newham desperately needs all the community resources it has," she said.

Ms Helman said the charity consulted extensively on the plans, welcomed all feedback and is committed to continued engagement with the community to shape the new spaces.

More than 400 responses were submitted and 20 virtual meetings held during the consultation. In response, the height of blocks was reduced from 12 to 10 storeys at the site's tallest point.

Aston-Mansfield is speaking to other providers over concerns about hireable community space in Forest Gate.

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