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Heated scenes at Burnley Town Hall as community centre faces axe

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Emotional community centre users and volunteers reacted with fury when councillors gave the green light for the land to be used for housing.

Anticipating a heated debate, Burnley Borough Council hired security guards to watch over its Executive Committee meeting to decide the future of land which includes the Burnley Wood Youth and Community Group centre in Glebe Street.

The ruling Executive, chaired by council leader Julie Cooper, voted to appropriate land bounded by Glebe Street, Kirkgate and Parkinson Street to allow property developers Keepmoat to build houses on the land as part of long-standing regeneration plans for Burnley Wood.

But when the committee voted unanimously to press ahead with the plans, the Glebe Street supporters erupted in fury accusing Coun. Cooper of being “a liar” with one person even shouting “I hope you rot in hell.”

Volunteers and children from the doomed centre had earlier gathered outside Burnley Town Hall with placards.

Five people spoke during the meeting on behalf of the centre including Lib Dem Couns. Jeff Sumner, Tracy Kennedy and Margaret Brindle.

Coun. Kennedy said: “This piece of land has been used by generations of children and has served the community for more than 100 years. Residents are not being listened to.”

The decision to appropriate the land was the latest in a long-running saga over the future of Glebe Street which has become a political battlefield ever since 2008 when the ruling Lib Dem group signed an Overarching Development Agreement. This followed a decision made the previous year.

The appropriation was needed after a decision last month by the Development Control Committee to approve a detailed proposal by Keepmoat to build more new homes in Burnley Wood.

Addressing the meeting, Coun. Cooper said: “I have listened carefully to the submissions and I am satisfied that the open/recreation space need has been met elsewhere. I know that the objections are heartfelt but we must look to the future of Burnley Wood.”

Executive members invited the Glebe Street volunteers to transfer their services and help at the nearby Terracefields centre, pleas which were met with howls of derision.

The Lib Dem group is now considering “calling in” the decision meaning it would have to go to the council’s overview and scrutiny committee for further deliberation.

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