A local indoor children’s centre is facing closure if plans to turn its home into a block of flats are approved by Hackney Council.
Nearby residents have launched a petition against plans to demolish the current building on Powell Road that houses indoor playground Kidzmania, which has been there for 25 years, and replace it with private flats.
Anthony Kingsley, 54, manager of Kidzmania, told EastLondonLines: “If we have to move out of the building, we would have to close down permanently.
“Every empty site is for residential development.”
Planning consultancy company Nicholas Taylor and Associates, who are working for the owners of the building, met with residents last Tuesday (October 20) to hear their concerns.
Associate planner Mandip Sahota rejected claims that Kidzmania will be replaced by flats and insisted the plans would integrate the play centre into the new development.
“The building will be demolished but Kidzmania will possibly be moving to the upper floor on the same building,” Sahota explained.
However, Kingsley said the space being offered to Kidzmania was not suitable for soft play because it was not high enough for the equipment.
The play centre, which offers two-hour sessions for an entry fee of between £2 and £5, is seen as a big part of the community in Hackney and the possibility of it being replaced by flats is a concern for many residents.
Melanie Read, 41, a digital and communications manager and mother-of-two, said: “It [Kidzmania] was a lifesaver when I had a crawler and three-year-old as there were facilities for both of them.
“Really sad to hear it may close as nothing else is like it in the area.”
Leanne Bentley, an office administrator at a law firm who has been living in Hackney for 17 years, said the borough “does not need any more luxury flats” as it is not “necessary”.
“If it [Kidzmania] is closed down temporarily, people are still going to have to find somewhere to go in the meantime,” she added.
“Hackney needs infrastructure and services for all the new people moving into the new properties in the area.”
Some people took to Twitter to express their concerns.
Don’t let developers turn a much-loved children’s playground in Hackney into another block of luxury flats https://t.co/W3XvJRP5xe
— Holly Baxter (@h0llyb4xter) October 23, 2015
— Chuckee (@Bordering_crazy) October 20, 2015
The Save Kidzmania petition on the campaigning site 38 Degrees had garnered 3,220 signatures at the time of writing.
It calls on the council to reject the plans being put forward.
The petition reads: “While everyone accepts that new housing must be created, there are plenty of vacant or derelict properties.
“There should be no need to choose a site that already has an existing use, and is used by so many.
“If it were to be lost, there is nowhere in the immediate vicinity that parents can take their children to play safely and securely.”
Nicholas Taylor and Associates will begin a second round of negotiations in two weeks’, but this time with Kidzmania only to hear their suggestions to improve the scheme.
Kingsley is optimistic about the upcoming negotiations with the consultants, however he feels the play centre may have to “accept that we have to compromise”.