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Work set to start on new Highbury Roundhouse

New community centre scheme gets major funding boost

10 February, 2017 — By Koos Couvée

An illustration of how the new Highbury Roundhouse will look

COUNCILLORS last night (Thursday) voted to give a planned new community centre in Highbury a major funding boost so that work can start in time to secure vital lottery funding.

Building work on the new Highbury Roundhouse is to start on Monday, after councillors agreed give the project a grant of £1.1million, while also giving the organisation behind it a 99-year lease for the site in Ronalds Road at a peppercorn ground rent of £500 a year.

Last year, the Highbury Roundhouse Association (HRA) secured £1million in lottery funding for the centre but the grant expires on February 23. Islington Council then decided to give the project some much-needed support.

Islington’s housing chief, Councillor Diarmaid Ward, said: “This is a very exciting project. It will be a state-of-the-art building where all ­service users can continue to use the services. It will provide much-needed social housing as well.”

Services provided by the HRA have been provided from temporary premises since the old Roundhouse was closed by the Town Hall after it was deemed unsafe, and demolished in 2013.

The report before councillors said the funding was conditional on the HRA transferring all services that it currently provides at the nearby Sotheby Mews Day Centre to the new Roundhouse.

The day centre – which was saved from closure following a campaign in 2011 – will be demolished to make way for housing to fund the project.

Councillors said a mix of social and private housing will be built at Sotheby Mews and part of the Ronalds Road site.

Green Councillor Caroline Russell (above) expressed concern that the new centre would not have the same breadth of facilities for older people as the day centre and described the move as a “diminution of local services”.

She added: “I suspect there will be a campaign to save [Sotheby Mews].”

However, HRA secretary Tony Miller said: “Yes it will be different, but we will provide most of the activities at the new centre, except there won’t be a hairdressing salon. The main difference will be that Sotheby Mews has a dedicated day centre, while we are a community centre for the whole age range. So, while older people previously had exclusive use of the building, there will be other things going on. In many respects it will be a better deal.”

Andrew Berthier, HRA trustee, added: “We can do much more intergenerational work and make the experience more pleasurable for them.”

The Highbury Roundhouse has served the young and old of the area for more than 40 years. In 2010, the old building, a former Victorian bottleworks, was deemed to be unsafe by Islington Council, which owns the land. Cracks were discovered in the walls of the main building at the back of the centre caused by subsidence, leading Islington close it. It provides a nursery, youth club, pensioners’ groups and sports and exercise classes.

The council initially said the old building would be too expensive to repair and planned to knock it down and sell it to housing developers. But after a campaign from residents and service users the council agreed to let the association build a new centre as long as they were able to raise the majority of funds for the project itself. It went back on that decision somewhat last night, agreeing new funding.

Mr Miller added: “The support that we’ve had from the council was really important.”

Last July the piled foundations of the new building were put in place and on Monday the diggers will start work on the new building, which is designed by Sarah Wigglesworth Architects.

The development will be phased, as there is still £400,000 left to raise by the HRA to fit out the new centre.

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