New cam­paign launched as hall de­mo­li­tion looms

Kentish Express Ashford & District - - NEWS - By Char­lie Har­man char­[email protected]­m­group. co.uk

A new cam­paign is call­ing on coun­cil bosses to re­place a pop­u­lar com­mu­nity cen­tre as its £150,000 de­mo­li­tion looms.

Con­trac­tors are pre­par­ing to bull­doze the 50-year-old Bock­hanger Com­mu­nity Cen­tre in Ken­ning­ton and re­place it with top­soil un­til a de­ci­sion about its re­de­vel­op­ment is made.

But a new on­line pe­ti­tion, which has been signed by more than 200 peo­ple, hopes Ash­ford Bor­ough Coun­cil (ABC) will com­mit to build­ing a “big­ger and bet­ter com­mu­nity cen­tre of the high­est qual­ity”.

Cam­paigner Dic­con Spain, from Char­ing, who set up the pe­ti­tion, said: “Dis­re­spect­ful is the word that springs to my mind when I think about ABC clos­ing the com­mu­nity cen­tre with no firm com­mit­ment or time­line on build­ing a re­place­ment. It’s dis­re­spect­ful to the peo­ple of Bock­hanger and neigh­bour­ing By­brook. As well as a new com­mu­nity cen­tre I think ABC owe lo­cal peo­ple an apol­ogy.

“The com­mu­nity cen­tre was ab­so­lutely vi­tal to all the com­mu­nity but par­tic­u­larly the younger and older age groups.

“I have spo­ken to a num­ber of lo­cal peo­ple over the last few weeks who said that now the cen­tre is closed more peo­ple have noth­ing to do, par­tic­u­larly young peo­ple, and that many older res­i­dents are in­creas­ingly lonely and iso­lated be­cause of the clo­sure.

“By clos­ing the com­mu­nity cen­tre, ABC has ripped the heart out of Bock­hanger, and what makes this even worse is that this ac­tion goes ab­so­lutely against the spirit of their own Lo­cal Plan.”

An ABC spokesman said the build­ing - which was pre­vi­ously home to home to Bock­hanger li­brary - is “sadly be­yond eco­nomic re­pair”.

He said: “Given the con­sid­er­able ex­pense of re­build­ing the hall, the close­ness of other com­mu­nity fa­cil­i­ties in the vicin­ity and the lim­ited use the hall in re­cent years the de­ci­sion to knock down Bock­hanger Com­mu­nity Cen­tre was made in May last year.

“Over re­cent years the hall has not been well used and pre­vi­ous ten­ants such as the li­brary, the nurs­ery and other sports clubs have found more suitable premises at the nearby Sure Steps Chil­dren’s Cen­tre in the Phoenix Com­mu­nity School, which is next to the site.

“Sur­veys were car­ried out to as­sess the vi­a­bil­ity of bring­ing the hall up to modern stan­dards but they high­lighted the poor con­di­tion of the build­ing and there­fore keep­ing it open would re­sult in spi­ralling re­pair and op­er­at­ing costs. The build­ing is more than 50 years old and is sadly be­yond eco­nomic re­pair, with the coun­cil hav­ing kept it open be­yond its ex­pected de­sign life.

“Once the build­ing is de­mol­ished the site will be re­in­stated with top­soil and seed un­til a fi­nal de­ci­sion is taken on re­de­vel­op­ment op­tions for the area.”

ABC says spe­cial­ist con­trac­tors are now on site to be­gin the process of de­mo­li­tion of the build­ing.

The re­moval of as­bestos ma­te­ri­als is the first stage and that is ex­pected to take up to two weeks.

Once it has been safely com­pleted the de­mo­li­tion of the build­ing will com­mence.

To view the pe­ti­tion to re­place Bock­hanger Com­mu­nity Cen­tre, visit https://bit. ly/2VBKjRO

Does Ken­ning­ton need a new com­mu­nity cen­tre? Write to Ken­tish Ex­press, Unit 4, Park Mall shop­ping cen­tre, Ash­ford, TN24 8RY or email ken­tish­ex­[email protected]­m­group. co.uk

The Bock­hanger Com­mu­nity Cen­tre has been closed since March last year, right, cam­paigner Dic­con Spain

As­bestos is be­ing re­moved from the build­ing be­fore de­mo­li­tion be­gins

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