Boost for Highgate Newtown as private grants allow free community services

The new community centre designed by architects RCKa

The new community centre designed by architects RCKa - Credit: Archant

The director of a community centre in Highgate Newtown is celebrating his services being saved - thanks to private

Andrew Sanalitro, director of Highgate Newtown Community Centre

Andrew Sanalitro, director of Highgate Newtown Community Centre - Credit: Archant

donations worth £32,500.

Andrew Sanalitro who took over the running of Highgate Newtown Community Centre in Bertram Street five years ago, says this private investment is keeping many of its services free of charge.

The Highgate Newtown Community Centre (HNCC), in Bertram Street, is due to be redeveloped as part of Camden Council’s community investment programme (CIP), with 31 private flats and a new £3.8m “state-of-the-art” building.

Mr Sanalitro said: “We’ve had a fantastic start to 2017. Santander gave a grant of £5,000 for youth projects along with Arsenal Football club who gave funds to ensure our under 5s service continues to be free of charge for local people.

“We are also delighted to say Camden Council has approved a new three year grant of £95,000 although we only get 45K as the rest is taken for rent on the building.

“In addition, Arsenal Football Club gave £2,500 for the under 5s services, Garfield Weston, a grant making trust has given £10,000 and last week the Lady Gould Trust gave £15,000 to support the whole centre.

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“However on Monday the under-5 session was so full we had to turn people away so we do need more funds to increase the service.”

The consultation on redevelopment plans ended in December with the planning application due to be considered by the council in March. If the regeneration gets the green light, services will move out for two years to neighbouring community centres while the building work takes takes place.

The scheme has received some local opposition as all 31 flats built by the council will be for private sale and residents claim they will have to put up with years of dirt and noise.

Mr Sanalitro, a supporter of the scheme, said: “I’m sorry to local people who are objecting, we don’t want to upset anyone. Our interest is solely to provide services that are desperately needed. You might expect there to be public services but those days are gone.

“I’m still shocked that the public doesn’t get how bad the cuts are and what’s coming.

“When I started here we had to get the finances back on track and we had to make difficult choices early on. Our job now is to keep a sense of community going.

“The flats will pay for the centre, it’s the only mechanism Camden’s got to build it.”

Dozens of services are run from the HNCC including a lunch club, sessions for over 60’s and under five’s and a service offering food parcels to vulnerable people.

The sports hall caters for gymnasts, footballers and trapeze artists and there is also the heavily oversubscribed wood work class in the centre, the only one in the country that allows five-year olds to use real tools.

Mr Sanalitro added: “We’ve been told we’ll be here for the whole of 2017. We’ve got lots of grant applications in so God willing we’ll get some of them.”

Cllr Phil Jones, cabinet member for regeneration, transport and planning at Camden Council, said: “We’re committed to investing in community facilities fit for the future and the new Highgate Newtown development will provide a brand new sustainable community centre with a large hall capable of delivering a wide-range of activities as its centrepiece.

“There is no social housing planned for the development because the receipts from the sale of the private housing are being used to directly fund the new community centre.”