Charteris Centre to close after Brent Council turns down Big Society bid

Campaigners say they are bitterly disappointed - but will keep fighting

Campaigners say they have been left bitterly disappointed after their proposal for a Big Society style takeover of a sports centre was rejected by Brent Council.

Determined residents had battled for several months to keep the Charteris Centre, in Charteris Road, Kilburn, open despite town hall chiefs slashing all of its �150,000 funding.

Yet despite getting the backing of Sports England and Labour MP Glenda Jackson, the group had its rescue plan rejected by the council last night.

Charteris campaigner Lloyd Fothergill said: “This goes against the council’s own localism policies.

“Brent is not interested in engaging with community groups. Not a chink has appeared that would suggest that it wanted to engage with us. They have been quite brazen about it.

“Brent has no interest in meeting any of its localism policies.”

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In a ten page letter to the campaign, Sue Harper, Brent Council’s director for leisure, said the rescue plan had been turned down because of fears over maintenance and gym costs, and staffing issues.

The Charteris campaign had proposed to form a charitable trust to take over the centre and run it with a mixture of staff and volunteers.

However, Brent questioned whether a ‘heavy reliance’ on volunteers would be sustainable.

In its appraisal, Brent officers wrote: “[We] must recognise high likelihood of turnover as some people use volunteering as a springboard to career and others move away.

“[There is] insufficient material on how volunteer base will be recruited, nurtured and managed without the hard core becoming lumbered and themselves drifting away.”

The council also claims that the gym equipment at Charteris is worth �40,000 and is too valuable to be given to a community group. However, campaigners are disputing this figure, and believe the real value to be far lower.

Despite the knock back, campaigners have vowed to keep battling to save it.

Mr Fothergill said: “The council has taken away our swimming pools, our community centres and now it is taking away our last community facility.

“We have got support from Labour MPs, Sports England and two charities which have offered to fund us.

“Without council cooperation it will be very difficult, but we are going to keep battling.”

Cllr James Powney (Lab: Kensal Green), lead member for culture, said the Charteris rescue package had ‘never stacked up’.

He said: “The Charteris campaigners are letting their hearts overrule their heads. They are so committed to the building that they are not being realistic about how big the problems are.

“The council has tried to make the centre work and the private sector has, but neither has been able to.”