Decision to demolish 'irreplaceable' community hall in Hackney on hold

A breakdancer at the Frampton Park fun day.

A breakdancer at the Frampton Park fun day several years ago. - Credit: Gary Manhine

The decision on whether a Hackney estate's community hall will be demolished to make way for homes has been put on hold, with many residents upset that its replacement will not meet community needs. 

Hackney Council’s not-for-profit, in-house housebuilding programme has proposed demolishing the existing Frampton Park Estate community Hall to make way for 69 homes with 23 for social rent and 12 for shared ownership. 

The council's planning application, which it withdrew from a recent planning sub-committee meeting to give more time for consultation, suggests the removal of the hall could be offset by one of two nearby facilities located minutes from it. 

The Frampton hall can hold 150 people across two floors while nearby Pitcairn House hall has a capacity of 60 and Elsdale Community Hall has 50. 

The application states that the current usage of Frampton Court's hall "indicates that there is sufficient capacity for the services" which have operated there to be "accommodated at either" Pitcairn or Elsdale. 

It adds that Elsdale is "most appropriate". 

Frampton Park Estate Community Hall. Picture: Google Maps

Frampton Park Estate Community Hall. Picture: Google Maps - Credit: Archant

However, nine objections and a petition signed by 150 people reveal concerns, with some saying that the loss of the community hall "is not offset by the plans to improve Elsdale Community Hall".

The estate's Tenants and Residents' Association (TRA) believes that the community hall has not been "underused" despite the council's claims otherwise.

Torren Lewis, the tenants’ association’s vice chair, said: "We kept saying the hall is not underused.

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"We need it, we are an estate of nearly 3,000 people and [if the plan goes ahead] we are going to have no community facilities."

"[The estate] is in a deprived part of London, there's a lot of inequality and the youth centre is irreplaceable."

He asserts that the homes the council intends to build will create even more need for community space despite the council's intention to downsize to a smaller hall. 

Torren also alleges that Hackney council has "blocked residents from booking Frampton hall to make its "usage look bad", adding: "I live opposite the hall and I have lived there for nearly 30 years.

"I have seen the usage, so when the council said it was underused, I could prove and see that wasn’t true."

Torren continued: "There's a number of the door to book the hall but it doesn’t go anywhere it just rings. Then they said that there was a problem with the booking system online and over the telephone

"And then they said that we're not taking bookings because of noise complaints."

The plans would see the Elsdale Community Hall expanded and improved with a £250,000 cash injection and the 23 social rent homes would be prioritised for families living on the estate whose current homes do not meet their needs, due to overcrowding or medical need.

As of 2019, there were 147 families on the Frampton Park estate on the waiting list for a housing transfer.

This included 22 families in the ‘urgent’ band.

But Torren worries the loss of the hall will have a significant impact on the estate's young people. 

He told the Gazette: "I'm 46 years old and I used to go there when I was a child.

"I used to live on Kingshold Estate before it was razed to the ground. They took away our community hall when they started demolishing our estate and we used to go from there to Frampton Community Hall.

"My son went there and the number of children I have seen it help and the benefit it's given and the councils have a responsibility to protect young people."

He also called out a change in council policy which meant Hackney Quest, a non-profit providing workshops and activities for young people, was no longer able to use Frampton Hall for free. 

This saw Hackney Quest relocated to nearby Poole Road.

But the council's planning application document states that while a shift in council policy has resulted in some changes in the hall's usage in recent years "there is insufficient evidence to suggest that the use or demand for the hall has been misrepresented or intentionally suppressed".

It reports that the most recent regular use of the hall averaged 3.5 hours a week before the pandemic. 

Still, Torren says the consequences of such policy changes are already being felt on his estate: "Now you have got the kids hanging around again. 

"When I first moved on to the estate. Hackney Quest was not there and there was a lot of drug dealing, stabbing and gangs."

He says the estate was even split in two at one point due to "post-code violence" but Hackney Quest's arrival in the early 2000s "calmed things down". 

Victoria Ward Cllr Penny Wrout added: "Victoria Ward councillors welcome the council's decision to review the provision of community spaces and facilities in tandem with assessing this planning application. 

"There have been several changes on the estate over the last decade, and more are planned for the future. We feel it is important to listen to residents and take an overview of the impact on the estate and wider community."