Huge Protest Planned at Town Hall Tonight

Palingswick House and Irish Centre campaigners join rally

Related links

Irish Centre team Present Petition to Council

Irish Cultural Centre

Save the Irish Cultural Centre Online Petition

Palingswick House Set to House Free School

Nine Council Buildings to be Sold to Pay off Debts

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Campaigners fighting to save Hammersmith's Irish Centre and Palingswick House will be among local people protesting outside the Town Hall in Kings Street at 6pm tonight, Monday February 7.

The protest will be held ahead of a council cabinet meeting which is expected to approve the sales of these two buildings plus seven more in order to pay off debts.

Hammersmith MP Andy Slaughter says: "They are selling off invaluable community assets at a time of depressed property prices. And they are acting against the central tenet of their own government – the Big Society.

" I will be there on Monday protesting their short-sighted policies and hundreds of people, of all political stripes from all parts of our community, will be there too."

The council says a report has recommended the sales following detailed consultation carried out over the Autumn.

The report recommends that Cabinet:

  • approve the sale of Fulham Town Hall, Palingswick House, the Distillery Lane centre, 58 Bulwer Street, Askham Centre and the Greswell centre;
  • approve that leases on Cambridge House, Barclay House and 20 Hammersmith Broadway are not renewed;
  • revoke the Cabinet decision of January 2009 to extend the lease of the Irish Cultural Centre so that it can be offered for sale to the sitting tenant – the Irish Cultural Centre Hammersmith Ltd.
  • defer the decision on 50 Commonwealth Avenue pending the outcome of the Day Opportunities review and until an alternative site is agreed for the existing occupants.

A separate report to Cabinet on February 7 recommends approval of the proposed sale of Sands End Community Centre.

" We have had a very wide-ranging consultation on the sale of these sites and I appreciate the contributions that local people have made," says Council Leader, Councillor Stephen Greenhalgh.

" I understand how difficult some people have found it to come to terms with the budget pressures we are facing, but the reality is, we have no choice but to reduce our spending and whether it is right to sell buildings rather than cut services will be decided by Cabinet on February 7."

Here are details of the main local sites:

Palingswick House

Palingswick House is recommended for sale for a number of reasons: it would generate a significant capital receipt; it requires £450k maintenance works and is expensive to run; it is not fully accessible; and alternative space is being developed in three community hubs which will provide better and more cost-effective accommodation for the voluntary sector.

The council has indicated that, if the decision is taken to sell Palingswick House, it would be interested in considering proposals from the West London Free School to buy the site.

Irish Centre

The centre is managed by the Irish Cultural Centre, Hammersmith (ICCH) Ltd. It and Irish Support and Advice (which the council currently also helps fund) both have offices in the building. The council subsidises the centre by £137k a year which it can no longer afford to do and is encouraging it to move to self-sufficiency, along the lines of the nearby Polish Centre. Its lease on the building expires in March 2012 and the council is giving ICCH first right of refusal to buy the property which would be the council’s preferred option.

If ICCH are unable to raise the funds, the council would not be in a position to renew the lease and will offer the property for sale to other interested parties.

At a council meeting held on January 26, supporters of the Irish Centre, who had gathered a petition with almost 6,000 signatures, packed the public gallery to hear the centre's chairman Jim O'Hara accuse the council of reneging of an offer to extend the lease on the building and appeal to councillors that if they insisted on going ahead with a sale that they should give the centre three years to raise the money needed.

Mr O’Hara added that it would be "disastrous" if the only centre devoted to Irish culture in Britain was forced to close

The cultural centre was established in 1995 and was funded directly by the council until 2007, when its £175,000 subsidy was stopped after the Conservatives took over control of the council.

Palingswick House is currently used by 21 voluntary and community groups, who will be forced to move out to allow the building to be converted for use by the high profile West Lonon Free School.

The organisations include the Iranian Association which runs a well-used Learndirect centre from the premises. Other, non-refugee, groups in residence include Hammersmith and Fulham Community Transport and its fleet of two dozen minibuses.

The groups have now been invited to apply for space within community "hubs" across the borough.

February 7, 2011