Harmony Hall in Walthamstow likely to be sold off, reports James Cracknell
Fears are growing over the fate of a community centre used by dozens of small voluntary groups – after its owners put it up on sale.
Users of Harmony Hall in Walthamstow are running a campaign to save the building, which could close as soon as April. The community centre in Truro Road is home to seven mental health support groups and acts as a hub for young people’s clubs, faith communities, adult education workshops, health and wellbeing providers, arts and culture classes, and many more local organisations.
But the charity that owns the building is suffering financial problems and is selling off property assets to stay solvent.
Crest Waltham Forest has managed Harmony Hall for 20 years, on behalf of owners Livability. Alan Horne from Crest told the Echo: “The building has been there 80 years and they are in a hurry to sell. There are two halls, two meetings rooms and an office. It is the location that is critical for it. There are 36 groups using it regularly, with about 1,500 people coming here every week.
“It is a loss to the local community, there is no other space of that size open to the community within that area. This is at a time when there will be an increase in the number of people in Walthamstow and one of the main community assets is going to close.”
Alan said Crest had been notified about the sale of Harmony Hall in September 2017. Since then they have been trying to source up to £1million to buy the building and in January this year appealed to Livability to be granted more time.
“If they had given us the time I think we could have found the money but it’s difficult now. We came to an agreement we could stay there beyond 5th April but only on four weeks’ notice if they find someone to sell it to.
“Harmony Hall has given Crest a platform to develop our mental health programme over the years. We have an exhibition space in the foyer. It will be difficult for us to develop our mental health work without having such a wonderful resource in such a key position with a reputation as a centre of excellence.”
A spokesperson from Livability has said that while the building will be sold it should be protected from redevelopment by planning restrictions on community buildings. They said: “For many years, Livability has been pleased to make Harmony Hall available to Crest Waltham Forest on a no-cost basis, enabling Crest to deliver its own services and allow other community groups to use the premises.
“However, in September 2017 we advised Crest we needed to sell Harmony Hall to help sustain and develop Livability’s vital services to support disabled people. We agreed Crest should be given an opportunity to raise funds to purchase the building but sadly, by January 2019 it was clear Crest had not been able to do so and accordingly, Livability served formal notice to end their tenancy.
“It should be noted that generally assets such as Harmony Hall are protected by planning policy which resists the loss of land with a D1 (community) planning use.
“Livability has a strong record of more than 170 years of positively engaging with and supporting communities; to that end Livability has not applied for planning permission to change the use of the property and has been advised that there would be interest from a number of organisations, including charities, in purchasing the site for use within the D1 use class.”
For more information about the campaign to save Harmony Hall: