Sotheby Mews Day Centre closure delayed as elderly users win apology
Politician pledges to build up ‘greater degree of trust’ before move
23 February, 2018 — By Samantha Booth
Campaigners fighting to save the centre staged a Town Hall protest last September
A COUNCILLOR has apologised for the lack of “trust building” between elderly users of a Highbury day centre and the Town Hall – hours after it was announced a proposed closure would be delayed for another year.
Sotheby Mews Day Centre for the over-65s was due to be moved a mile-and-a-half to the new Highbury Roundhouse this year so the council could start building social housing on its site.
Campaigners against the relocation protested outside the Town Hall last year, saying they were not consulted on the planned closure of the centre in Sotheby Road.
They handed over a 2,000-strong petition to the council, forcing a debate at a full council meeting last night (Thursday).
Housing chief Councillor Diarmaid Ward announced on Tuesday that the closure would be put back until February 2019 to allow more time to iron out details surrounding the move.
Speaking at a Highbury East meeting on Tuesday night, ward councillor Osh Gantly said: “Hopefully, over the coming 12 months there can be a greater degree of consultation and a greater degree of trust building as clearly what happened in the past is that trust hadn’t built up between service users at Sotheby Mews and the council officers.
“I’m sorry for that, genuinely, and this is an opportunity to put that right.”
Campaigner John Dear, 62, who uses the centre which provides hot lunches for pensioners, told the meeting: “We want to work with the council to develop the site and benefit all the community, but with Highbury Roundhouse and perhaps other proposed locations they need to be accessible.
“Some of those locations being proposed are too far away from public transport. The older people won’t feel safe. These people are vulnerable. With some creative thinking we could do a lot more.”
The council’s sole opposition councillor, the Green Party’s Caroline Russell supports the plan to build more social housing, but questioned whether the Sotheby Mews site was suitable.
Cllr Russell, who backed September’s protest, told the meeting: “Reading between the lines from what officers have told me, [I] think it’s a very difficult site to build social housing on because it’s on an incredible slope. It would actually be very difficult to get daylight into homes on that site.
“I know [the council] have done an options appraisal. We need to get that into the public domain to see whether it is actually a site where social rent homes could be built.”
Cllr Ward said: “We want to make sure that any concerns about the move have been adequately addressed and that Highbury Roundhouse provides the best possible services for people who currently use Sotheby Mews.
“To make sure this happens, we will spend more time working with Highbury Roundhouse and service users on details of the move.
“Meanwhile, services will continue at Sotheby Mews for another 12 months (until the end of February 2019).”
He added: “To help meet Islington’s desperate need for more genuinely affordable housing, after services have moved we will build badly-needed new council homes on the land at Sotheby Mews.”