Dilema for West Hampstead Community Centre as funds run dry

Community facilities in Fortune Green and West Hampstead are stuck in an awkward “half-way house” according to a local councillor.

West Hampstead Community Centre has been told its promised takeover of the hall beneath its premises – occupied by Sington Nursery – has been pushed back indefinitely by Camden Council.

Community centre bosses said taking over a larger space including the nursery would allow them to hold more activities, encourage more people to use the centre, and most importantly generate more income.

The centre’s �90,000 a year funding is set to run dry at the end of March, leaving its future uncertain.

A new plan was announced last week by chairman Alan Johnson for the centre to instead manage a site in Fortune Green used by the after-school club Playcentre.

He claimed the bid was key to the centre’s survival. But Cllr Flick Rea has branded the situation an “ill-fitting jigsaw”.

She said: “It’s a complicated jigsaw with neither being in the right place.

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“I would like the community association to have full use of the building intended for it, including the hall, and I’d like Sington Nursery to have a proper building and the Playcentre to continue.

“It’s a very unsatisfactory solution at the moment, a bit of a half-way house.”

The nursery and community centre were moved to the former church hall in Broomsleigh Street following the council’s decision to develop Emmanuel School in Mill Lane to address its shortage of primary school places across the borough.

But the council has reneged on its promise to relocate the nursery and for the community association to take over.

Mr Johnson said: “Had it come about, it would have been a reasonable plan which we bought into, so we didn’t kick up that much of a fuss about losing the old community centre.

“We’re very keen to make the best of an unfortunate compromise.

“I’m sure Sington would prefer to have a better nursery to what they have got and we would have preferred to have the whole building. But life often turns out differently from what we planned.”

The larger space in Fortune Green Road would allow the centre to host youth activities and it is already in talks to appoint a youth leader for the new facility.