Local charities in Chingford face eviction by council to make way for new housing
A community base and former library used by several local charities is set to be closed and converted for housing.
Waltham Forest Council confirmed that it planned to shut South Chingford Resource Hub and build 18 homes there instead. The building only became a base for charities, including elderly support group Age UK Waltham Forest and social isolation project Reaching Out East, after the council closed South Chingford Library in 2011.
The council says it spent £300,000 repairing the building just five years ago but that now there are “issues that make long-term use problematic”.
Emma Tozer, chief executive of Age UK Waltham Forest, was taken by surprise at the decision, having only signed a new lease with the council last year. She said: “This has come as quite a shock – we signed a five-year lease in October 2016. We only found out about the plans as I was trying to negotiate a further extension to the lease.
“I must stress that Age UK Waltham Forest and Reaching Out East as organisations are not ceasing to function, but are having to plan how we will deliver services in the borough.
“You will appreciate that we have both worked very hard to make the hub a success and a valuable resource for the community. All the organisations that use the hub are providing services for some of the most frail, isolated, and vulnerable members of our community.
“We have been working with the local ward councillors, who have been very supportive, to try and move discussions forward with the council. We have now met with representatives of the property department and we are trying to find a constructive way forward for all the organisations that operate from the hub and for the council.”
Other groups and charities that use the building in Hall Lane, known officially as Waltham Forest Resource Hub (North), include Crest Day Care Services, Waltham Forest Parkinson’s Group, Waltham Forest Low Vision Forum, and the falls prevention service run by North East London NHS Foundation Trust.
The hub also has a ‘community garden’ where fruit and veg grown by volunteers include runner beans, rhubarb, pak choi, and maris piper potatoes.
Councillor Simon Miller, council cabinet member for regeneration, said: “It is essential that we make best use of our assets to provide the high-quality services residents rightly expect and deserve.
“The South Chingford Resource Centre site has the potential to provide much-needed housing and can accommodate 18 housing units, 50 percent of which will be affordable housing.
“The refurbishment carried out in 2012 was costed at under £300,000. However, there are issues with the repair of the building that make long-term use of the site problematic. Officers have been in contact with Age UK and we have been clear in our offer to assist them in finding alternative premises.”
An online petition against the closure has so far been signed by nearly 500 people.
Leesa Herbert, director of Community Waltham Forest, an umbrella body for the local voluntary sector, added: “Community Waltham Forest is very concerned to hear about the proposed closure of the north hub and loss of a much-used local resource.
“The hub is home to charities Age UK and Reaching Out East which, along with others, deliver much-needed services and support to local residents.
“We recognise the pressure the council faces to secure new and affordable housing. We would very much welcome a constructive conversation between the council and local charities about community premises as well as helping the groups based at the north hub to secure suitable local space to deliver their services.”
To sign the petition against the closure of South Chingford Resource Hub: