Demolition threat to 'thriving' Burnley community centre
10:30am Saturday 5th January 2013 in News
A 'THRIVING' community centre in the heart of Burnley is facing demolition.
Burnley Wood Youth and Community Centre, in Glebe Street, which is run by volunteers, has been earmarked as part of the next phase of a housing development.
Burnley Council is working with developer Keepmoat to regenerate one of the town's most deprived areas with scores of new homes.
But campaigners have branded the plans to demolish the centre as 'sickening' as it offers children and residents a range of community activities and has helped reduce crime in the area.
Burnley MP Gordon Birtwistle said: "When the original plans for this phase of the development were formed I remember that the Glebe Street centre and the playground were always sacrosanct, not an option for development.
“It looks like things have changed now and I will support the volunteers and users to keep the centre where it is.”
The area affected, which supporters say has been used for leisure for 121 years, includes the centre building, a large concrete playground and a nearby grassed play area.
Adrienne Boys, 58, is one of the leaders at the centre, which is council-owned but run entirely by unpaid volunteers.
She said: “It’s sickening to do this to a community which doesn’t have much. I’m sure a lot of residents in Burnley Wood will fight this all the way.
“I’ve been involved here for more than 20 years.
“We have a Friday night disco for the children, arts and crafts on a Thursday and a well-attended pensioners’ coffee morning and bingo.
“My daughter Samantha and my 17-year-old grand daughter Jadene have both followed me in becoming volunteers - the place is thriving.”
Mrs Boys added that in the past two years the centre, which has a capacity of 70 people, had raised more than £20,000 for new flooring, disabled toilets and kitchen facilities.
The index of multiple deprivation places Burnley Wood among the five per cent most deprived districts in the country, with more than 20 per cent of children in the area eligible for free school meals.
Sylvia Wilkinson, of Glebe Street, lives next to the centre and is also a volunteer and primary keyholder.
She said: “It’s sickening to think that we could lose all this for new housing.
“Generations of children have come to play and meet others. It’s a place of safety, the hub of the community.
“I’m certain that having the play centre helps with reducing anti-social behaviour. There’s nothing else for kids to do round here.
“I just hope someone listens to what this community wants.”
Coun Jeff Sumner, who represents the area on Burnley Council and has been involved with the centre for several years, dressed up as Father Christmas at a children's party at the venue last week.
He said: “I think the council leadership are just paying lip service to the idea of proper consultation.
“Losing this centre will decimate a community which doesn’t have much. We all support regenerating the area but to develop this area without providing a viable alternative is simply wrong.
“To me it smacks of ‘fat cat’ behaviour.”
It is not known how many homes are earmarked for the site, which is approximately three acres, until the end of a consultation.
Around 120 new homes have been recently built and last year properties in Branch Road, Hampden Street and Nuttall Street were demolished as part of a £410,000 scheme.
Council regeneration chief Mike Cook said: “The creation of new affordable housing in this area of Burnley, with its proximity to the town centre, family facilities, and award winning parks, has seen a large area of Burnley Wood transformed.
“As part of our partner Keepmoats’ ongoing plans for the neighbourhood, more proposals for new homes are expected.
“The likelihood of these proposals is that a future site for development will include the Glebe Street play building.
“These proposals should not be a surprise to anyone who has been involved in the Burnley Wood redevelopment, as there has been extensive consultation on them over a period of time.
“The new homes in the neighbourhood are selling well, and the ongoing development is the result of years of hard work from the council, our partners, and local councillors.”
A meeting about the future of the site will take place at the Glebe Street centre at 6.30pm on Monday.