Residents on a Hackney estate have warned of “serious and irreversible consequences” if their community hall is demolished.
Tenants on Frampton Park Estate recently wrote to all Hackney councillors as well as local MP Meg Hillier to caution that the loss of the hall could exacerbate inequality in the community.
Torren Lewis, the tenants’ association’s vice chair, was speaking in the immediate wake of the Town Hall’s loss in a court battle over the fate of Holborn Studios, which found that the council had impeded freedom of expression in its attitude to lobbying from members of the public on planning decisions.
The Frampton Park resident has said that members of the planning committee leaving the room during a deputation he made to full council on the issue amounts to a similar “suppression” of public debate.
It is understood that, as no planning application for the hall is currently live, the council view that they had not suppressed debate, as the opportunity for debate to begin had not yet begun.
Cllr Vincent Stops, who chairs the planning committee, declared an interest in Lewis’ deputation, implying he would not be able to take part in that aspect of council business, though it has not been confirmed why this was done.
Lewis said: “We are concerned that there have been numerous failures in the decision to demolish our community hall.
“The council has not been clear and transparent to the residents with its decision and is failing to include the irreplaceable services provided by Hackney Quest and Young Hackney who occupied the ground floor of the hall for more then 20 years in its planning or consultation.
“In light of the current High Court decision, the social and equality problems we are now facing and an ongoing petition against the decision, we again ask that the council reconsiders and reverses the decision to demolish our hall or any community hall and refer all planning decisions where community services are at risk to an independent planning body.”
In her own address to the same full council meeting as part of Lewis’ deputation, which was cut off before she could finish speaking, Cllr Clare Joseph said: “The idea behind infill is to use disused space, and this is not that. This hall was built for the community and it belongs to the community – it is not right for the council to confiscate it in this way.
“There is no suggestion that there is anything wrong with the building’s structure so why has it been selected for demolition? Young people need spaces like this now more than ever.
“Plans drawn up so far show a gated off development of housing which feels disappointingly separate from the existing estate. Sadly many residents have told me that once the council has decided to do something, ‘Our views do not matter’. I sincerely hope that we can show that we are a council that listens to our residents.”
The hall is one of four sites on the estate being looked at as part of the construction of over 100 homes, around two thirds of which are are planned to be social rent or shared ownership, prioritised for families already living there.
Hackney Quest occupied the hall for six years in a no-rent arrangement with Young Hackney, who confirmed in January that in that time the hall was “thriving”.
It is understood that residents offered an alternative to the demolition of the hall – a renovation with a low-rise block of 100 per cent social housing built behind it, paid for by the private sale of flats on the site of the former Frampton Arms and Lyttelton House.
As at 2019, there were 147 families at Frampton Park on the waiting list for a housing transfer, including 22 families in the ‘urgent’ band, which includes overcrowded households in need of two or more extra bedrooms and people with urgent health needs, representing more than one in 10 Frampton Park families with a housing need.
The council is also planning a “major investment” in the estate’s other community facilities, including the nearby Elsdale hall.
Hackney Mayor Philip Glanville has said that while his council’s planning service will “look at what lessons need to be learnt” from the court ruling on Holborn Studios, the verdict has “no bearing” on the decisions around the Frampton Park proposals.
Mayor Glanville said: “Mr Lewis’ deputation at full council was heard loud and clear, which is why I responded directly to the issues he raised during the meeting and had already met with him personally to discuss our developing plans for the estate.
“Since that meeting we continue to develop plans to enhance community provision on the estate and are excited to hear new ideas coming forward from the tenants and residents’ association.
“A planning application will only be submitted once we have continued to work with residents to develop the right proposals for the Frampton Park Estate, at which point the planning sub-committee will fully take into account any views made on the application’s planning considerations. Hackney Quest still provide vital services on the estate and with our support will continue to do so. ”