Campaigners’ plea to save Kilburn’s Charteris sports centre ahead of budget vote

Residents are urging councillors to back their plan for the community to take over the centre

Determined campaigners fighting to save a ‘beloved’ community sports centre are making a final, impassioned plea to councillors ahead of a crucial budget vote next week.

Brent Council last month announced plans to close Charteris Sport’s Centre, in Charteris Road, Kilburn as part of sweeping cuts to their budget.

But the announcement has been met with fierce opposition from residents who are urging councillors to back their rescue proposals for the community to take over the running of the centre and that money raised through fundraising and running fitness classes will be ploughed back into the project.

The future of Charteris and a catalogue of other vital services will be decided on Monday (28) when Brent Council votes through a raft of cuts totalling some �40million at its annual budget meeting.

Simon Rogers, chairman of the Brent Eleven Streets Residents Association, which has spearheaded the campaign, said: “Charteris is so much more than a sports centre – it is the only community space in the area, and used by everyone form disaffected youths, to young mums.

“People are taking over facilities councils don’t want to run anymore, so the precedent is there. We are hopeful that the council will work with us to make it happen

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“We think there is a way the council can keep the centre open and stick to its budget.”

In a plea for councillors to ‘be imaginative’ in finding cuts, Mr Rogers added: “We would prefer to work with the council – the worst case scenario would be if the council gave us the centre without support.

“But the most important thing for us is to keep the doors open.

The campaign has launched a ‘use it or lose it’ push to encourage residents to go to the centre, and figures show that 52,775 have visited the centre in 2009/10 – nearly 3,000 more than Brent Council anticipated.

Spaced actress and Charteris Road resident Jessica Hynes said: “We accept that the council may not be able to continue supporting it, our preferred case is that the centre is run by the community for the community, and we are confident we can come up with a plan.”

Campaigners been in talks with Sports England, which funds UK sports projects, and was set to meet with Brent Council leader Ann John and discuss its rescue package plans when the times went to press.

Cllr James Powney (Lab: Kensal Green), lead member for culture, said the centre, which charges �26 a month for membership compared to around double that for private gyms, is losing �100,000 a year.

But critics have warned against looking at Charteris as an ‘isolated cost’, and said its closure would put a strain on other public services, as the rising obesity level takes its toll on the National Health Service.

Cllr Powney warned that ‘a convincing business plan’ must be put forward for the council to agree to a period of grace, allowing a full rescue proposal to be drawn up.

He said: “I think you make a good point about needing a period of grace before any final decision is taken, but I cannot guarantee anything.”