Battle goes on in last-minute bid to keep Wanstead Youth Centre open

Campaigners fighting the planned closure of Wanstead Youth Centre at the end of this week have stepped up their activities, including an all-night vigil outside the Town Hall in Ilford.

The council announced new plans last month for the Elmcroft Avenue building to transfer from Vision to become an education hub, with space still available for hiring activities. However it announced the building would close for its normal activities while a survey took place before refurbishment.

The campaigners, who welcomed the decision for the building to remain in public hands, are calling for the building to remain open while the review takes place. Their vigil is calling for the council to meet them and discuss matters. In a letter to the council leader, they say:

Dear Councillor Athwal, 

SOWYC are still waiting to meet with you. We kindly request that you do not close Wanstead Youth Centre (WYC) from 15 October. You have alleged that the closure is “so surveying works can begin”. However, no date has been given and due processes have not been followed to date.

We believe to close WYC would be premature. To leave it empty risks vandalism, crime and further irreversible decay. We cannot understand why the Council would do this when it could continue to be used to generate income for the Council. 

We request that users who have nowhere to go are allowed to continue using WYC. This is as it will take months, probably a year or more, to meaningfully consult with the residents of Redbridge, draw up a business case, organise contractors and complete the building works and so forth.

Many young people, marginalised and elderly groups, use WYC for mental, physical and psychological well-being. WYC gives young people a safe place to go – off the streets – and encourages multiculturalism and community cohesion. During this cost of living crisis it also provides a warm space.

Sadiq Khan, the Mayor of London, said on BBC London news ” *Loss of youth clubs : Must be reversed* …” and we wholeheartedly agree with this. 

We urge you to listen to the voices of people, including those that voted for you, and keep WYC open.

Yours sincerely, 

Save Our Wanstead Youth Centre

Update 1830: A spokesman for Redbridge Council said:

“Proposals for the future of Wanstead Youth Centre have been through significant engagement with the public, and with the people and community groups who currently hire the building and facilities.  As well as completing an online survey, with open text answers, the campaign group have attended several Council committee meetings, including Full Council and Cabinet meetings, to raise questions and make statements about the future of the site.  Council officers have also met members of the campaign group to answer their questions and share information.

“The democratic process has seen us take this through scrutiny and full council, and we have spoken directly with Ms Martin and community groups, in private meetings and at formal council meetings, the most recent one having been held on ​14th September, when many of her questions were answered directly.

“We understand and share the frustration at having to temporarily close the building for works to take place, but we cannot carry out these works, ensure the safety of the building and the people who use it, and keep it open throughout.

“The proposal is for the building to be converted and reopened as an Education and Youth Hub, providing alternative education provision, a tuition centre and early years play and development, whilst continuing to offer community use at the evenings and weekends.

“The Council will continue to consult the community and potential users of the site, as part of finalising the full business case. We continue to engage with Ms Martin as we all want the same result in a thriving Education and Youth Hub in Wanstead, for all the community to enjoy.”