Residents' joy at successful community hall appeal (From East London and West Essex Guardian Series)
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Residents' joy at successful community hall appeal in Highams Park
Neighbours of an increasingly divided estate have expressed their joy at news they will finally be getting a community hall after a two-year wait.
Residents of Aldriche Way estate in Highams Park claimed people of their diverse community were growing isolated while they made repeated requests for housing management body Ascham Homes to honour its promise made two years ago to build the hall.
And after the Guardian highlighted its plea Ascham Homes has now said it will start construction, using two empty garages for the space, which it aims to complete within six weeks.
Tenants, Residents and Leaseholders Association (TRLA) chairman Bert Morris, 69, of Long Leys, said: “It’s really good news for the estate. We have very different groups and cultures who live here and we’ve been trying to get something that will bring everyone together.
“The fear was that people were getting lonely without something. But this is the chance to bring a sense of unity.
“There’s a lot of people who’ve segregated themselves but this could be the thing to tie us together. It won’t be an easy thing to do but hopefully it will get people interested and things can start to take off.”
The community of around 2,000 people hope the hall could host art clubs, coffee mornings and more for the elderly, social activities for children and teenagers and groups to help adults get to know one another.
Mr Morris also raised the possibility of using it as a centre for language skills and extra English and maths classes.
One of the garages is used as an office, but is too small to be used as an activity centre.
An Ascham Homes spokeswoman confirmed it hopes to have the hall built within six weeks.
She added: “While there have been some delays in order to ensure that the extension complies with building regulations, we will ensure that residents have the space that they need to provide a hub for the community.
“We are working very closely with building control and are currently seeking planning approval for the work.”
Cllr Darshan Sunger helped the residents press the housing body on the issue.
He said: “I’m absolutely ecstatic that this will finally happen for the community. The people really care about the area and this should help them become more close-knit.”
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