Police were called to a residents’ sit-in protest in a community centre on the Silwood Estate after their Zumba class was cancelled.
Fed-up members of the St Helena and Oldfield Residents’ Association (SOTRA) staged the protest after the fitness class they had organised on Thursday was cancelled by the managers of the Lewington Community Centre, L&Q.
In a long-running dispute, the group allege that their activities are being interfered with by L&Q and are cancelled at short notice, while events being run by private groups in the space are left to go ahead.
Since Thursday’s protest – to which two police officers were called – the TRA members say they have been denied access to the building, forcing the cancellation of a youth club run on Friday evenings as well.
“We’re fed up with them cancelling our meetings. We had two hours’ notice for the youth club [cancellation],” the group’s treasurer Jacqueline Willis told the News.
“We did a sit-down protest in the building, they said they were locking up.
“At no point did they ask us to leave the building. Since then they’ve changed they’ve changed the password on the door, we’ve been locked out the building basically.
“It’s making us ill because it’s quite emotional. They’re trying to wear us out.”
However, Ms Willis alleged, a non-community event was allowed to go ahead as scheduled on Thursday, despite being told the building had to close due to a shortage of staff.
The row centres on the TRA’s access to the community hall while other groups whom are renting the use of the space are allowed to use it for their occasions.
“Unfortunately, due to unexpected staff sickness, we had to close the Lewington Community Centre at very short notice on Thursday, January 9,” said an L&Q spokesman.
“We completely appreciate that people were disappointed, and are sorry for the inconvenience, but a group who were due to take part in a class at the centre decided to enter the building regardless and refused to leave.
“Police were called to assist with managing the situation.
“The centre was closed for two evenings but is now fully open again.
“We are now drawing up guidelines for use of the community centre so people in the area can continue to enjoy this popular facility.”