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Camden New Journal - by RICHARD OSLEY

Lyndhurst Hall

Stephen Beechey
Youth club plea as hall faces bulldozers

‘Return of meeting place would ease tension on streets’

A CONDEMNED Victorian hall should be converted back into a youth club rather than face demolition, former staff have argued.
Lyndhurst Hall in Weedington Road, Kentish Town, was sold by Camden Council in 2004 and planners are now considering proposals by a housing association to demolish it.
New homes will be built on the site if the Notting Hill Housing Group plans are approved.
Former Lyndhurst Hall chairman Stephen Beechey, 47, said on Monday that tension among teenagers in the area would be eased if the building was returned to its former use as a youth club.
Mr Beechey reckons the youth club, based in the building throughout the 1960s and 1970s, made living in Kentish Town much easier for bored youngsters.
He said: “They should be building more places like this – not knocking them down. Camden needs places like this.
“There isn’t anywhere like the youth club at Lyndhurst. When we had the youth club, you didn’t have the same violence on the streets.
“These days the violence is extreme. It’s life-threatening. It’s not fisticuffs – it’s people stabbing each other in the street. In the old days, places like Lyndhurst Hall gave youths somewhere to go.”
The provision of youth clubs and out-of-school activities in Kentish Town is under scrutiny following the fatal stabbing of popular Acland Burghley student Tommy Winston, 18, in Brecknock Road earlier this month.
Alarming statistics show that teenagers from Kentish Town are twice as likely to be among those seen by Camden Council’s youth offending team.
Mr Beechey said part of the problem was that youth clubs in the area had closed down one by one.
He added: “It will be a sad day if they knock down Lyndhurst Hall. It has had an important influence on my life – and many others.
“Everybody would go there. It attracted so much interest because it provided what teenagers wanted. You don’t have that in the area any more. There is nothing left.”
It is thought the Town Hall collected around £6 million from the sale of the four-storey hall.
Liberal Democrat councillor Jill Fraser, one of the main campaigners calling for Lyndhurst Hall to be saved, said the council had sold a building that could have been a valuable resource.
She added: “It was a wonderful place – and everybody got involved. It brought the community together.
“Parents were happy for their children to go there. There was a football club there, a boxing club – nobody beat each other up, it was disciplined – and there were outings. I know we need more housing in Camden but the new building could have been a mix. It could have had something for the community.”
Labour council leader Councillor Raj Chada said on Monday that he did not think Lyndhurst Hall would be best used as a youth club.
He added: “There are other facilities in the area – the Queen’s Crescent Community Centre is nearby. We are committed to providing youth facilities but provision is not the only argument when you are talking about youth violence.
“We will make sure our young people do have things to do and extra support when they need it. As well as all the current facilities, in due course I will be asking that an additional £425,000 is used to refurbish sports and play facilities across Camden for our young people.”


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