Residents fight plans to close Kilburn’s Charteris Sports Centre

Around 150 people pledged to fight the cuts at a packed meeting on Saturday evening

The fight to save an “invaluable” sports centre gained momentum as residents staged a public meeting on Saturday.

More than 150 residents crowded into the Charteris Sports Centre, Charteris Road, Kilburn, for an emergency meeting to demand Brent Council reverse its closure plans – revealed in the Times two weeks ago.

Simon Rogers, chairman of the Brent Eleven Streets Residents’ Association, which called the meeting, said the centre is a well-loved community facility which should be promoted, not closed.

He said: “Charteris is a central hub for the community, and has a lot of support from people living in Kilburn.Residents, young and old, love coming here, and we hope to save it.”

Speaking at the meeting, 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 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.

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Mike, a war veteran, who did not want to give his full name, said the Japanese martial arts classes he takes have helped him cope with his severe anxiety attacks – a psychiatric scar of his time in the military.

Addressing Cllr Powney, he said: “I study aikido here and it changed my life. It stopped me from being psychotic, and prevented me from doing harm in the community.

“Could you tell me from your cost benefit analysis, just what you think that is worth?”

A number of community and sports facilities have closed in Kilburn in recent years, including Granville Road swimming baths and the Sacred Heart youth club, and residents warned that Charteris’ closure will leave the community bereft of a cultural hub.

Nathanial Thomas said: “This is the closest thing to a community centre in the area. Charteris has been left without vital investment. Brent Council should be trying to increase participation, not shut it down.”

A committee made up of Charteris members was set to meet with council chiefs this week and work out a business plan to keep the popular sports centre open.

Meanwhile residents agreed to launch a membership drive to raise funds for the campaign

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.”