A Hertfordshire councillor has warned “we must not rip out the heart of the community” following a visit to Borehamwood’s Maxwell Park Community Centre.
Councillor Chris Hayward, Hertfordshire County Council cabinet member for education, visited the centre yesterday morning at the invitation of Hertsmere Borough Council's leader Cllr Morris Bright and two local councillors, Sandra Parnell and Pat Strack.
Under the Elstree Way Corridor plan, the centre, which celebrated its 50th anniversary last year, and the adjoining guide hut, could both be bulldozed and replaced with a school.
Hertsmere’s action plan suggests moving the centre’s activities to the new 96 Shenley Road, but campaigners feel it is an unsuitable alternative.
After being shown around the area by Cllrs Strack and Parnell, who have been part of the long-running campaign to save the community centre, Cllr Hayward was given a tour of Maxwell Park by staff.
Cllr Hayward said: “I came on a fact finding mission to help me understand better the concerns of local people about possible plans to turn the site in to a primary school in the years ahead.
“I was truly amazed how large and versatile the community centre is, how well it is run by its dedicated staff and also by how many community groups use this centre in addition to county’s excellent new facility, 96 Shenley Road. It is obvious that the Maxwell Park centre is much loved, well used and well looked after.”
More than 2,500 new homes are to be built in the borough over the next ten years and officials say a new school is needed to cope with the new people moving in.
Cllr Bright has warned that bulldozing the community centre is not a popular option and has promised to do everything in his power to help save it.
Speaking after the tour, he said: “We are all very grateful for Chris Hayward’s visit. We know how busy he is with the 450 schools in Hertfordshire, so to come to visit the Maxwell Park Community Centre and hear of the huge problems it has been facing has provided us all with a great boost.
“I believe Chris really understands the concerns here and we very much appreciate his commitment to find a way forward.”
Cllr Hayward was also given the opportunity to speak to a representative of the Elstree, Borehamwood and District Community Association, which has shown an interest in buying the centre.
Cllr Hayward added: “There is an offer on the table here and it needs to be given serious consideration. If county can sell the Maxwell Park centre which will then stay on as a community centre and use the money it receives to put in to a much needed primary school nearby, surely that must be a win-win situation for everyone.
“There must be way forward here and I shall work hard with all sides to try and find one that meets all local needs.”