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Sports centre pleads: ‘Give us 15 more years’

Inflatable 'Dome' has been a hit in Queen's Crescent but planning permission is expiring soon

11 May, 2019 — By Samantha Booth

Foyezuh Miah and Michael Blain

A GOSPEL Oak community centre has warned that the area could lose a valuable service for thousands of young people if new planning permission is not granted for an inflatable sports centre.

The centre, known as The Dome and the size of six badminton courts, has stood on the former Weedington Road Play Centre since 2014.

Camden Council granted five years of planning consent at the time, as the site was earmarked for housing. With the opportunity to apply for longer-term funding, The Dome’s operator, Queen’s Crescent Community Association, wants to secure permission to keep it there for another 15 years. The QCCA leases the land from the council.

Its chief executive, Foyezur Miah, said: “If we don’t get planning permission by May 30 it will affect seven different organisations as well as thousands of young people who are using this facility.”

The Dome site, where there is a separate building with a kitchen and pool table, is near the spot where 22-year-old Calvin Bungisa was murdered last month. Every weekday even­ing sport is hosted there by QCCA in a council-funded programme for young people and disadvantaged families. Several community groups also use the space.

The facility is used by nearby Collège Français Bilingue de Londres (CFBL), a bilingual French school in Holmes Road which does not have its own sports hall.

CFBL head of physical education Michael Blain said: “It’s really important to keep this. We don’t have our own space so we rent different facilities, but sometimes they are far from the school. It’s very good to mix with the community.”

Mr Miah added: “Space like this in the heart of a council estate is an amazing asset. It’s the only facility used as early as 8am and finishes about 9pm. Constantly, we maximise the use of this space by maximising the partnership with the school. “With limited planning permission it means we have short-term planning. It means we can’t really plan long-term. Especially in an age where we’ve just had a murder a few weeks ago literally a hundred yards from this facility, we need to do more to be able to engage with young people.”

If the council does serve notice on the site, it has said it would make “reasonable endeavours” to provide suitable alternative space, where possible within the council’s portfolio.

Camden regeneration chief Councillor Danny Beales said: “The site which The Dome is occupying was identified a number of years ago as a future development opp­ortunity for the council to provide much-needed council and living-rent housing. The Dome was always conceived and granted permission as a temporary structure to make best use of the site in the interim. The current five-year temporary permission is due to expire and the operators are seeking permission for a further extension. We are working closely with them to continue their important work.”

He added: “We are committed to support youth and community activities. “Community conversations will take place, including on expanding youth services and how we can deliver new permanent youth facilities in Gospel Oak.”

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