Community groups looking for new homes after council decision to close Dukes Hall, Hornchurch

More than ten community groups have been left homeless after the council gave the go ahead for the disposal of a community hall.

At the cabinet meeting on Wednesday October 26, the committee approved the closure of Dukes Hall in Hornchurch despite objections from councillors and residents.

The plans will see the hall, which is used by a playgroup and senior citizens group, closed by April next year and the asset released for disposal.

Cllr Barbara Mathews (RA,Hacton) argued that its closure would have a negative impact on young people in the area.

She said; “I would have thought that in this day and age of the big society, we would be encouraging people to be good citizens and should be encouraging more young people to use this hall.

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“The hall is right in the middle of an estate and a lot of the problems that happened with the riots were because of disadvantaged youngsters,so if we close down the hall they will have no facilities to use.”

She added: “I agree that we have to make savings but we seem to be closing down a hall that is very well attended.”

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There were also objections raised from Rainham Cllr Jeffery Tucker (Independent Local Residents’ Group) who suggested that the hall should be put into the control of the residents.

He said: “I believe that all community halls should be kept open because there is a real shortage of halls.

“We should be encouraging the community to set up their own committees so that they can keep their halls open.”

The proposals also include the demolishen of the Old Windmill Hall due to health and safety reasons, and for urgent repair and maintenance works to be carried out at the New Windmill Hall and Tweed Way Hall.

The plans will also see the transfer of management to a community group in the New Windmill Hall and Tweed Hall.

Cllr Andrew Curtin (Con,Rom) defended the decision and said that the groups would be given help to find new premises, although the cabinet report states that ‘there is no guarantee that suitable facilities will be found for the groups’.

He said: “This is a responsible approach because Dukes Hall was an opportunity purchase so it is a good way to make progress.

“This is the only way that we can move forward and to make changes.”

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