One of the largest community centres in London is facing closure because of the rising cost of removing asbestos discovered over a year ago. Lewisham Council, who own the building, have told the centre that they are unable to offer any financial support.
Goldsmiths Community Centre has played a vital role in Lewisham for almost 80 years. Situated on the Downham Estate on Castillion Road, the centre provides a range of services to the community including sports and dance sessions, as well as a lunch club and activities for the elderly.
Volunteer Sally Edwards told Eastlondonlines: “It always felt like this place was the heart of the community, you’d meet people from every different walk of life, from different cultures. There was always something fun going on.”
Although the building housing the centre belongs to Lewisham Council, Goldsmiths Community Association holds a lease with 23 years remaining on it. Liz Wood, Chair of Goldsmiths Association believes that it is the council’s responsibility to remove the dangerous asbestos as it has been in the building since it was built. The centre, which has faced general funding cuts in recent years, cannot afford to pay the estimated £60,000 cost of removing it.
The centre received a letter on 29 January saying: “The council is unfortunately unable to provide money towards the works you require.”
Liz told Eastlondonlines: “This is a public building containing a lethal substance because Council officers of a previous generation almost certainly commissioned the builders who put it there. I feel that the Council has a moral obligation to help us remove it, but, under the terms of the lease, the legal obligation is ours. This is a situation not unique to us, but affecting communities all over the country.”
The centre has recently launched a crowdfunding campaign to fundraise for its maintenance costs.
Lewisham East MP Heidi Alexander expressed her support to Eastlondonlines, saying: “The community fundraising campaign is inspiring. Community facilities in this part of the borough are few and far between, so it’s really important that we are able to get the doors back open and breathe some life back into the centre.
“When councils are really struggling for money, it sadly comes down to local people to make things happen. We’ve got no shortage of determined campaigners locally. I’ll be doing all I can to support them,” she added.
If the centre can get rid of the asbestos, parts of it that are currently closed can be reopened. The centre says its gymnasium, classrooms, gardens and halls could be rented out to generate income to become self-sustainable.