Hanwell Community Centre

by Nigel Bakhai on 14 December, 2010

Please find below the text of my speech at the December 2010 meeting of Ealing Council on the subject of a petition on Hanwell Community Centre.

A glance at the petition shows the depth of support for the HCC amongst its users and amongst the people of Hanwell with many signatories from my ward of Elthorne as well as from Hobbayne and the Cuckoo estate. This is an important building in Hanwell’s history, most notably as Charlie Chaplin’s school and the scene from the film ‘Billy Elliot’. However, it is imperative that Hanwell Community Centre is also very much part of Hanwell’s future. There are very few community facilities in the borough and we cannot afford to allow the Hanwell Community Centre to continue to be under-utilised. With so many empty rooms and, despite the number of different groups using HCC, at times there are relatively few bookings for a building of its size.

At the last meeting of the Elthorne ward forum, members of the board of HCC offered local councillors from Elthorne and Hobbayne a place on their board and that offer has been made again this evening. I am willing to accept that position and play whatever part I can to help bridge the gap between the Council and HCC. For the sake of the people of Hanwell, I urge the Leader of the Council and officers to work with the board of HCC to secure the future of this important facility for all the community.

I would also like the Leader to clarify whether the Council’s position with regard to the future of HCC is likely to be affected by yesterday’s announcement about the Localism Bill which will give civic societies and other local groups a legal right to come forward with a funded business plan to take on community assets like the Hanwell Community Centre.

Thank you Mr Mayor and I would also like to thank Mr Sear and the members of the board of Hanwell Community Centre for their petition. I am sure Mr Sear and Cllr Ray Wall who was on the Hanwell Area committee at the time will remember that I conducted a similar petition 6 years ago as Chair of the Hanwell Steering Group when the community centre was almost put up for sale at auction. Many of us might have been forgiven for thinking that the future of HCC was secured especially when in 2007 the Conservatives, to their credit, agreed to invest £2.2 million for Phases 1 & 2 of a 4 part renovation of the building.  However, six years on since my petition, very little else has changed. Phases 3 and 4 have been cancelled, and plans to relocate the council’s training abandoned. The HCC lease has been allowed to expire and issues over the future of the building remain.

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