Council squeezes community centre for £50k

By Ceiri O’Driscoll

A Peckham community centre threatened with closure by the council has been given two months to raise nearly fifty thousand pounds to stay open.

photo-spike31The Spike Surplus Scheme was handed a £440,000 bill by Southwark Council to buy the plot of land it stands on, or face the sale of the building to developers. The original deadline for the bill was September, but volunteers at the centre have negotiated a deal for an initial ten per cent deposit to be paid by the end of the year, followed by the full amount in 2009.

Squatters moved into the building ten years ago, transforming it from a neglected fly-tipping site to a colourful local resource, offering massages, arts and crafts, music rehearsal space and gardening. Donations are accepted but there are no fees for the services.

Southwark Council refused to comment as they have already initiated legal proceedings to evict the inhabitants.

Inhabitants and volunteers are not going down without a fight. “We’ve submitted business plans to the bank as well as The Big Issue,” said Yusef Martin, 31, a volunteer and resident at Spike Surplus.

“They’ve stopped talking to us completely. We know we still have a window to raise the money, but the Council has written us off completely.” – Yusef Martin

Local activist and leader of Southwark Friends of the Earth, Anne Stanesby, has fond memories of the centre spanning its ten-year life. “The yoga classes and the massage sessions on Fridays are fantastic,” she said. “Everyone in Peckham is rooting for them. They are just such lovely people.”

(Photo credit: http://www.peace.fm)

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