L&Q lockout Silwood Youth Club

Jacqueline Willis Silwood resident and Ola Walker local youth worker expressed their frustration and hurt after L&Q housing association, current managers of the Lewington Community Centre, cancelled the youth club at short notice. The day before L&Q had cancelled the Zumba class again at very short notice, which sparked a resident sit down.

L&Q have a history of last-minute cancellations of community events including the residents’ Christmas Party. Fortunately, they were given permission to throw the Christmas party, but not without causing distress and anxiety to the community event organisers and the caterers. As the Christmas party drew nearer, they were still in the dark about the availability of the centre.

The Lewington Community Centre, promised under the regeneration of the Silwood estate to serve and be managed by the Silwood neighbourhood has become simply an “asset” of L&Qs portfolio of properties- it is rented out most of the time to Morley College.

These community events were cancelled at extremely short notice, just a few hours before the events were meant to begin. This was particularly unfortunate on the day that they were supposed to hold a youth club event for minors, as it posed a child protection issue when the building closed and they had nowhere to go.

L&Q offer no real explanation for the cancellations. They cite staff shortages but there is no reason for the community not to be keyholders. If they had been keyholders none of the events would have needed to be cancelled.

L&Q seem determined not to allow members of the community-led Lewington Community Centre Management Community (LCCMM) to be keyholders. Indeed L&Q appear to resist any attempt by the community to organise and run their own centre as they were promised they would under the Section 106 agreement. Before the “regeneration” of the estate the community happily and efficiently ran their own centre.

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Silwood residents sit-down to demand a community centre.

After a series of community events have been cancelled at short notice, when L&Q suddenly announced the Lewington Centre on the Silwood Estate would closed at 5pm- not the scheduled 9pm, it was the final straw, after 20 years of being excluded from their own centre. 

Residents wanted to show that there were people who would be prepared to manage and close the building after 5pm. The women were resident community workers and representatives of residents and tenant groups.

Residents were not asked to leave by L&Q but soon after 5 the police were in the room.

This is not the whole story.

Since the building was open L&Q have resisted all attempts by the community to manage and use their own centre.

This sit down was not just about a zumba class being cancelled. It was the last straw in a 20 year struggle for the community to get the centre “regeneration” promised.

What Silwood residents had pre Regeneration: a mish-mash of community resources, youth clubs, a nursery, a creche, education and training facilities, clubs and groups, council supported and bottom up initiatives effectively run and organised by residents, paid or voluntary. Many were much loved by the community and the residents made the best of what little they had.

What they were promised, the justification for the entire regeneration scheme was a bigger, better, purpose built community centre and facilities.

What they have 20 years on is the “Lewington Centre.” A building L&Q run and refer to as an “asset” and a business. The centre is in fact let out to Morley College most of the week so it is not available for community use.There is nothing “purpose-built” about the Lewington Centre. With 25 flats above the main hall, occupied by key workers, some on night shifts, the building was never suitable for the kind of noisy social  and community events like birthday parties, weddings.  The acoustics have been a constant problem. Just a few teenagers playing table tennis made a deafening noise before expensive sound remediation.

L&Q insisted they had to build the flats above the centre to provide an income stream to make the centre sustainable. Its not clear why the flats needed to be physically located on top of the building given the huge amount of land L&Q were given in the regeneration deal. Without transparency and published accounts it is also not clear what this income, combined with the rental from Morley College and other private hires, is actually spent on. Do L&Q really need to charge the community to use their own hall for social and community events to “cover their overheads”?

The community want some very basic things so they can once again manage their own community resources:

Management of activities and social events at the community centre.

Registered Community key holders.

Recognition of the Community Centre Management Committee (CCMC)

Published accounts for Lewington Centre. (required under Section 106)

These are simple demands. It is curious L&Q are so resistant. Why?

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