Burnley Community Centre closure plan fury

Volunteers who are trying to save the Burnley Wood Youth and Community Centre from being demolished.
Volunteers who are trying to save the Burnley Wood Youth and Community Centre from being demolished.

ANGER has erupted over plans to bulldoze a “thriving” Burnley community centre to build new homes.

Burnley Wood Youth and Community Centre, which runs activities for dozens of children and pensioners, could be flattened to make way for a new housing development in the area.

The centre in Glebe Street, which is run by volunteers, is at the centre of land earmarked for the next phase of regeneration in Burnley Wood by developer Keepmoat and Burnley Council.

The popular centre was identified as a possible site for new homes in 2007 but council figures said firm plans have yet to be drawn up.

Campaigners fear the decision may be a foregone conclusion but vowed to fight to keep the centre open during a heated public meeting on Monday.

Around 80 people turned up at the Glebe Street home and vent their anger at plans to bulldoze the site which includes the community building, a concrete playground and a grassy recreation area.

Residents called for the centre to stay open for the “future of local children” and feared the heart would be ripped out of the community if it closed.

Coun. Mark Townsend said that Labour had been left with their hands tied over the community centre and said proposals for the area had been agreed when the Liberal Democrats were in power in 2010.

But Lib-Dem Coun. Jeff Sumner hit back claiming the agreement had only been reached if a new state-of-the-art community centre was built by the developer.

Burnley Council official Mike Waite said that even if plans for the site were not made, community facilities in the area may have to be streamlined.

He said: “As Burnley Wood develops, I want to work closely with anyone interested in running community activities here.

“Over the next few months, we need to look at the alternative venues in Burnley Wood where the three community activities running here each week could take place if the Glebe Street building was to make way for housing.

“Even if housing plans were not coming forward, it would be a good idea to look at streamlining community activities in the area.

“At present there are several buildings where different groups run a few activities each week, meaning that time, energy and money is duplicated.”

But Jason Neville, chairman of the Burnley Wood Youth and Community Centre, said: “They say there are other places in Burnley Wood, but one is a school and one is a church. There’s nothing else like this in Burnley Wood.”

Mr Neville fears that if the centre shuts it will be a huge blow to the community. He said: “It is about community cohesion and stopping anti-social behaviour. If you take away something that has brought the community together then what are we all going to do?

“The kids will be on the streets. They will smash windows, spray paint graffiti and set things on fire.

“By having a centre function for everybody, it’s somewhere where everybody gets on and feels safe.

“We work our backsides off – but we do it for the community.”

Sylvia Wilkinson, who is a committee member, added: “The children need it, the pensioners need it. We have some amazing times here.

“The kids are panicking about it. They are not daft, they know what’s going on.”

Burnley Council expect a planning application to be submitted in the coming months which could mean houses on the site but campaigners have vowed to fight it all the way.