An uncertain future for a valued community asset

The Laindon Community Centre is facing an uncertain future. It has acted as a valuable community hub and with a bar in an area short on pubs, as somewhere to meet up and socialise over a drink. Lockdowns and the tiered restrictions mean the centre has been unable to open for some time now. With no revenue from hiring out rooms and the hall plus no takings from the bar, the money available to the committee running the centre for maintenance drained away. Eventually, they were left with no option but to hand the keys back to Basildon Council who are the landlords. This is the statement issued by the committee about the closure: LCA CLOSURE.

In an age of austerity, like many assets owned by the council, the Laindon Community Centre didn’t receive the investment required to keep the building in a good and useable condition. There are rumours that the centre will be demolished with a replacement being built. Where the replacement would be sited and whether it would have the number of rooms, the hall and the bar it did have is unclear. This news item from last November features a letter from Victor York, a trustee of the committee that ran the centre and a response from Cllr. Kerry Smith, the deputy leader of Basildon Council: ‘Coronavirus used as excuse to seize Laindon Community Centre’.

In Smith’s response he said: “The council will not be knocking down the Laindon Community Centre.” This appears to have been contradicted by his sidekick, Cllr. Gavin Callaghan, the leader of the council who in this press report, raised to prospect that the centre could be demolished and replaced: Campaigners call for answers on Laindon Community Centre. We suggest that Callaghan and Smith really should talk to each other to get their story straight. Mind you, Callaghan does have a reputation for shooting his mouth off without fully engaging his brain, let alone consulting his colleagues.

There’s now a Facebook group with over 700 members campaigning to keep the Laindon Community Centre as a viable hub and one that retains its bar. Understandably, they want a straight answer from Basildon Council rather than just being strung along by them and fobbed off with what to all intents and purposes is bullshit. Whether Callaghan and Smith are capable of giving a straight answer is a moot point. We’ll be following developments on this saga with great interest…

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