Friday, 14 December 2012

Councillors listen to the views of Brixton Rec users

On 10 December 2012, more than 120 Brixton Rec users came together in what was a lively meeting to put forward their views on the potential threat to close the Brixton Recreation Centre.

The notes below outline the main points and concerns made during the meeting.

Ellen Lebethe, the Chairperson, opened with a few personal words. She said the Rec may be in danger. Users of the Rec had not been consulted. Lambeth is now a Cooperative Council and citizens are at the heart of Lambeth. They should have input in the process. Brixton Rec is more than just a Rec it is a Community hub.

David Duncan, for the BRUG committee, added that the Rec is a unique place. All ages and races make friendships there. It has a huge range of activities and social activities. Rec users were not consulted about the future of Rec.

Contributions from the floor and responses from Councillors.

The Rec has cultural significance and if it was in Mayfair the Council would not think of pulling it down.

Someone said he was representing the unspoken voice of the community. He said the facilities at the Rec for football/ basketball helped prevent youth going into crime.

Councillor Lib Peck (Council leader) responded:

There had been a lot of consultation on the Brixton Town Centre plus workshops, and online. (Heckling – ‘get to the point’ and ‘what is the hidden agenda?’) She said that this had all been started by rumours. There was pride in Brixton. (More heckling – ‘get to the point’.) She insisted the Council wanted the best leisure facilities for Brixton. But there were issues of access for disabled (more heckling ‘get to the point ‘and the Council want to sell off (the Rec) to make money’). Councillor Peck stated that there is no hidden agenda and the Council wanted to improve facilities but there are issues of disability access and energy sustainability. The rumours had started with the consultation on the Brixton  Supplementary Planning Document (SPD). She urged people to sign up to Future Brixton. The draft SPD was due to be published this week but this had been pushed back. Now formal consultation may not start until February. She is now Leader of Council but was previously the Cabinet Member for Regeneration and Housing. This post is taken over by Councillor Pete Robbins.

More heckling: ‘The Rec was iconic and a lifeline for people’.

Chair intervened saying people had the right to speak and to take their turn. Chair said that this was about improving Rec. What is important is to keep the Rec.

Councillor Peck said she was sorry there was anxiety about selling the Rec.

A woman asked Councillor Peck to categorically say whether the Rec site is to be sold. Many interjections from floor saying ‘answer the question’. Chair said that questions would be answered in turn. Three questions from each side of room, then answers. People from floor interjected saying ‘no more questions until the lady at the back’s question is answered’. Someone from floor asked is the Rec underused? It is in prime position for retail. What is going on?

Councillor Peck replied that developers are interested in Brixton. But the Council would only want to work with developers who put money into the community as well. Consultation showed that people did not want any more big chain stores; they wanted to retain the character of Brixton. The Rec is not underused. There was a large investment in it 5 years ago. Greenwich Leisure had a good impact on running the centre. But there are concerns about disability access and energy efficiency.

Someone asked if the Rec building needed to be demolished. Councillor Peck answered no but a serious level of investment was needed and that the meeting should start a ‘shopping list’ of improvements, along with GLL.

Someone said the Council had not put notices about the recent consultation in the Rec. Councillor Peck said that it had been a mistake not to do this and have a separate meeting on the Rec. Councillor Peck repeated there was no ‘hidden agenda’. This issue of hidden agenda was repeatedly raised by the floor. She said the Council wished to work with people on options and that residents should make decisions.

A user said that the draft Brixton SPD was not in line with the Brixton Masterplan and the Lambeth Core Strategy, which specifically protect the Rec and,0 unless it was changed, the Rec would be under threat in the future. Questioner twice asked for assurance that the wording of the formal consultation document on the Brixton SPD would protect the Rec. Councillor Peck did not give the assurance but said the Rec would be kept as the feeling of the community was so strong.

A man said that the consultation had been an insult. This was not being done in Brixton’s name.

The Cabinet Member for Leisure, Councillor Sally Prentice, said the Council had to think about the energy crisis and energy costs of the Rec. Also the Council would not be getting any more money from central Government. The 1930s Clapham Leisure Centre had been closed as it was no longer fit for purpose and completely rebuilt. Disabled access and underuse of areas in Rec needed to be looked at.

Interjection from floor – you are paid to sort these things out. Put some new lights on the access areas.

Councillor Prentice said that the Council was not a soft touch with developers.

A boy comes to front to speak. Said he had used the Rec since he was 3. Now here for 5 years. So the Rec was important to him.

The Chair proposed a discussion on the way forward, summarised below.

There needs to be a policy to get Brixton a world class athlete.

The Roller Girls said they are world class team as they are European Champions. Number 11 in world ranking. The Rec is the only place in London where they can practice using the roller skates as other recreation centres do not like roller skates on their floors. If the present Rec went, they did not know what they would do.

Longer opening hours were suggested.

Refurbishment yes, replacement no.

If there is refurbishment, do it around people, not close Rec for ages.

Go back to original architect’s vision for the Rec.

Rec is used by church groups as well.

In the ramp, open up the windows which are now covered.

Another child spoke. They had used the Rec since they were 2 years old when they started swimming. They were now level 8.

Chair said that older people use the Rec. As an older person she said it was important for people’s wellbeing and health. Doctors refer patients to the Rec.

The new Cabinet Member for Regeneration and Housing is Councillor Pete Robbins. He was present and he had been listening to everything that had been said. He had only been in post for 3 days.

Brixton Energy could look at putting in solar panels and green energy.

It was pointed out that ‘Better Games’ for the over 55s had been televised in Brixton Rec. It would be good to have ‘Better Games’ for younger people.

Councillor said that everyone present should go on the BRUG email list for further consultation.

The meeting ended. The Chair thanked everyone for coming and the lively debate. She thanked the Council for the reassurance that the Rec would not be demolished.




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