The decision about the future of Wanstead Youth Centre on Elmcroft Avenue poses a few difficult issues.
Overwhelmingly it seems that a proposal from Redbridge council to close the centre is about money – it will need, apparently, £2.4m to bring it up to scratch, at a time when public finances are under more stress than normal and when a multi-million pound investment is being made in the new Wanstead Leisure Centre.
But losing a public asset like the centre, which includes sports halls, a theatre and function rooms, will be a real loss for the community. Anti-closure campaigners say 1,200 people use the centre each week.
The building itself dates from the mid-1940s and originally formed part of the Nightingale High School site. This school closed in 1987 and was mostly demolished, though the Nightingale Primary School which took over the site could eventually have used many of the classrooms. It had to install prefab classrooms for many years.
It feels that there is an inevitability that, should Redbridge proceed with its plan to close the site, more houses will be built, even though that spot where Elmcroft meets Deynecourt now feels quite dense.
The council says: “The Council is considering alternatives to renovating the building, including redevelopment. We would expect any redevelopment of the site to include community space as a precondition of planning permission being granted.”
Local sports groups which use the premises are among those calling on the council not to close the site. Demolition would undoubtedly mean the loss of a community asset, just as losing the old high school buildings did.
What’s really needed is a benefactor who would take on the site, renovate some or all of the facilities, and preserve the centre for Wanstead’s future. If that’s not going to be Redbridge, then who will it be?
There is a consultation on the proposal at this page, which explains some of the reasoning behind the proposal.
There is also an e-petition against the closure, which is available on the Redbridge site, but (just like the planning site) it is not possible to give exact web addresses. Anyone looking for it will need to go to this page, and click on the word “e-petitions” in the first paragraph, then click on Wanstead Youth Centre. User-friendly this is not but don’t let that stop you having your say.