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Residents protest over proposed closure of Gamesley Community Centre

Residents and councillors joined forces at Gamesley Community Centre on Monday evening to protest about the proposed plans from Conservative led Derbyshire County Council to shut the much-loved community centre in March. 

Both residents and councillors have recently found out about this potential closure without any warning from Derbyshire County Council and have not yet been given any reasoning behind the decision.

The community centre is used for clubs such as the youth club which youngsters attend and enjoy as well as the boxing club which has been a well attended club for many years now. 

On Monday evening (5th February), local residents met in Gamesley to discuss opposition. 

Protestors expressed their opinions to councillors Edward Sidall, Anthony Mckeown, Damien Greenhalgh and Labour's Parliamentary Candidate for High Peak Jon Pearce. Concerns consisted of the youth having nowhere to go if the community centre does get closed, the building being turned into more houses and many said it’s another positive place being taken away from the residents of Gamelsey for no apparent reason. 

Residents also stressed the importance of the centre due to the memories many have there such as weddings, birthdays, funerals and after school activities.

The Community Centre was originally constructed due to the support of local residents through the ‘Buy a Brick’ scheme, which further highlights the strength of the ties Gamesley Community & Youth Centre has with its loyal residents. 

Robert Largan, MP for High Peak, commented: “Gamesley Community & Youth Centre is an integral part of the local community, playing an especially important role in hosting activities for children and teenagers in the area. 

This has been reflected in the level of support for the movement against closing it, with over a thousand locals already signing a petition calling for it to be saved.

Like other local residents, I’ve heard nothing from the Council. I’m extremely disappointed with the way this has (or in this case hasn’t) been communicated.

I’ve requested an emergency meeting with Derbyshire County Council but I’m still yet to hear anything from them.

I’m keen to work with everyone to ensure we keep this vital facility open for local people.

The closure has triggered a huge local response with a petition page being set up which has over 1,150 signatures on it as well as a dedicated Facebook page. 

Becki Woods, Councillor for ​​the Etherow Division: "As the Derbyshire County Cllr for Etherow which includes Gamesley I was disgusted to learn via social media that Derbyshire County Council are intending to close the Community Centre in Gamesley. I didn't have the courtesy of being officially informed of this decision, so I have written to the Chief Executive of DCC to demand an explanation. Quite honestly it feels as though Gamesley and its residents have been completely abandoned by DCC.

There is perhaps a tiny chink of light, and I don't know if it's possible, but although it's a DCC building HPBC own the land so maybe they might be able to find a way to take it over? In the meantime, I will do everything I can to help to save the centre."

Helen who set up and runs the Hangout Club from the Community Centre over two years said: “This news is shocking, the young people and the volunteers who attend the club, need the space, it’s a safe environment where they can meet their friends and join in activities, we provide life skills such as cookery lessons and bring in services such as the Credit Union and the Young Minds team to give the young people advice and help.”

“These groups has been a lifeline for many young people, especially during covid recovery, when young people have felt isolated, and suffering with mental health issues. During the School holidays we provide a much-needed free holiday activity program, where young vulnerable people can come enjoy activities and get a hot cooked meal, without the Community Centre this can’t continue.”

“The clubs are all ran by local community members and they get a huge sense of pride and enjoy being able to give the young people somewhere to go and be safe, the groups are like a giant happy family, looking after each other when they need a shoulder to cry on or just having fun as children and young people should.” 

Steve Brady from the Boxing Club that runs in the centre has also been asked to leave the building by 31st March, Steve has been delivering boxing sessions at Gamesley for over 18 years, he is passionate about the young people he coaches and see’s the value that he brings to the community, although as he says boxing isn’t for everyone, between the two clubs, they provide great opportunities for all the young people, keeping them off the streets and getting them out of their bedrooms, being active and supporting both the young people and their families. 

During the discussions it became clear that the community are extremely upset by this short-sighted decision, with individual community members telling their own stories of why the centre is so important. We heard from three young girls, Darcy, Ellie and Amelia all aged 11, who attend The Hangout Club and the Boxing Club.

Darcy said ‘The Youth Club has been going for ages, it is not fair to do this to the community, there has also been lots of parties held at the centre and its also the boxing club, Ste at boxing has helped me when I thought I wasn’t strong enough, the people here are lovely, Bekki, Jade, Cheryl and Helen helped put The Hangout Club together. The community Centre has helped lots of memories. More and more children go every week it brings lots of families together, that were never close. You can not take this away from us! We have gained such a big environment at the community centre, if it shuts down, it’ll just get vandalised like the Melandra Castle pub, so councillors I’m asking you now, please do not shut it down!’

Jon Pearce, Labour’s candidate to be High Peak’s next MP said: “Hearing the young people pleading to keep their youth club open and generations of people explaining how vital the Community Centre has been for their families, makes what Derbyshire County Council are doing and the way they have gone about it all the more tin eared and cold hearted. 

There has been no information. No consultation. Just telling the youth and boxing clubs to be out by the end of March. We need answers. We need the Conservative leaders of the Council to take responsibility and tell the community why they are doing this. 

Sadly this is the result of 14 years of cuts to local government grants by this Government and 6 years of mismanagement by local Conservatives. Over 40 Conservative MPs, including many from Derbyshire, recently wrote to their own Government urging an emergency injection of funding to stave off the crisis in local government and cuts to local services. Sadly, Robert Largan, who is on the Government pay-roll, was not one of them. 

The message from Gamesley was clear last night they aren’t going to standby and let them take their Community Centre away. And I’ll support them every step of the way. 

County Councillor Damien Greenhalgh said: The community meeting was understandable emotional and highly charged community meeting.  The County Council has been disrespectful of this community and all those that use the centre. With no warning, no clear information on the impact and no consultation – it simply isn’t good enough.

So many people attended and spoke of the huge impact this will have on the Gamesley community, especially on the young people! – with many speakers tearful.

The message tonight was clear, DCC needs to rethink this and work WITH the community to find a solution as there is the will and I’m confident we can find a way together.”

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