Campaigners amassed at Croydon Town Hall to protest against the two-year closure of Fairfield Halls yesterday.
‘Save Our Fairfield’ campaigners made their numbers known to Croydon Council by filling up the public gallery and overflow rooms on Monday, April 18 to hear the debate about shutting Fairfield Halls for renovation work in July.
The campaigners produced a petition with around 9,000 signatures calling for a phased closure of the halls so people could keep their jobs and community clubs would still have somewhere to meet while renovation is under way.
“Keeping Fairfield open throughout the refurbishment, and retaining the links to the community, will make Croydon a happier, healthier place to live,” said Andy Hylton, leader of the campaign.
“Instead you throw all of this away, making staff redundant, without any thought for their future.
“The cost of getting this back will far outweigh the costs of a phased refurbishment.”
His words were met with applause from both the protestors in the gallery and the Conservative councillors opposing the plans.
While the cabinet member for culture, Tim Godfrey, congratulated the campaigners for their passion, he defended the closure.
He said: “When we made the very significant decision to proceed on the £30m refurbishment and the restoration of the Fairfield, we understood it would have a significant impact on the Fairfield and its staff.
“Even in a phased refurbishment there would have been staffing restructures with redundancies and the operational side would have required substantial funding over the three-to-four years of disruption.”
However, shadow cabinet member for culture, Lynne Hale, asked why the council had not released a public report into the redevelopment project by consultancy firm Mott Macdonald.
After the debate was over and the council dismissed the petition, campaigners showed their disdain for the verdict by singing over the meeting with their own rendition of ‘Land of Hope and Glory’ called ‘Fairfield, Heart of Croydon’.
Voluntary steward Gabriella Bush said: “Many of the councillors said that it [Fairfield] is a community hub and people rely on it for entertainment, charity work, a voluntary place, people work there and the fact that they aren’t listening to people who want to keep it here and build up Croydon is really upsetting.”
The planned closure is set to begin in July, but the campaigners will continue to speak out for a phased redevelopment to save jobs.
Featured image courtesy of SouthEastern Star, with thanks