Demonstrations held at Lambeth Town Hall after ‘thriving’ community centre faces closure

Residents have demonstrated outside Lambeth Town Hall in a bid to save one of the largest community centres in the country.

Waterloo Action Centre (WAC), in Bayliss Road, South Bank, could face closure following rent increases issued by the council.

Campaigners held placards outside the Town Hall on Monday October 4 with the words “destroying 48 years of community”.

Anne Noble-Partridge, 46, of Streatham Hill, runs a drawing group at the centre.

She said: “This would simply mean the end of WAC. The rent rise represents a third of WAC’s hard-earned income and would mean a sharp reduction in activities and services we provide, hitting some of our most vulnerable citizens.”

Eirwen Edwards, 91, said: “It would be devastating for us all if it were to close.”

The proposed increase could see the WAC’s rent rise to £45,000 a year and an added £5,000 building insurance within 4 years of the change.

Eirwen Edwards, 91, of Sapperton Walk, said: “WAC is important to me because it is the only place I’m able to meet and socialise with people my own age. It would be devastating for us all if it were to close.”

George Thomas, 67, of Winchester Close, said: “I have been coming to WAC for over 10 years.

“I am part of the fencing club and help out as a volunteer. WAC is a thriving community centre.

“There is always something going on and volunteering gives me a chance to be a part of providing these important services that are really useful to the community.”

Chris Dann, 43, of Windmill Walk, said: “WAC is my local community centre and I have seen first-hand the incredible difference it makes to people.

“I help people with computers and gadgets, and without this service a lot of people simply wouldn’t be able to access the internet to access their emails, public services, and so many of the things that we take for granted.”

The WAC has had a lease since 1973 and the centre has raised over £1 million over the years to bring parts of the derelict building back into use.

Earlier this year in April the WAC petitioned against the potential rent rise imposed by town hall chiefs.

A Lambeth Council spokesman said: “We have a new voluntary and community sector assets strategy, covering 49 properties that are occupied by a wide variety of organisations and representing a significant drive towards fairer and more transparent property renting.

“A six-year phased transition in place for groups that are expected to pay more than they currently are, and the rents will still only be only 20 per cent of market rate.

“That includes organisations such as the WAC who will get ongoing public subsidies, while getting an extended period before they have to pay more than they are currently paying.

“More than £2.25 million will also be invested in refurbishing properties, which will be on top of regular external maintenance and repairs.

“We are confident these measures and the way they are being implemented is fair and equitable.”

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