After 3 months campaigning, users of the Phoenix House Community Centre in Sittingbourne have won a vital reprieve. Over 50 community and voluntary organisations were facing eviction by Kent County Council in February, a move that would have led to the extinction of many of the groups.
Kent County Council was motivated by a desire to move their adult education services from their site in College Road, Sittingbourne, no doubt hoping to make a major capital gain.
Early in September the Community groups organised a successful profile raising march through Sittingbourne High Street. They were supported by Labour Councillors and by members of the local party.
Later in the month Labour Councillors on Swale Borough Council proposed a motion calling on the leadership to lobby strongly with Kent County Council. The passing of this motion helped to encourage the users and pressure was applied on the leadership at Kent County Council.
However progress was slow and in October, Cllr Adam Tolhurst pointedly asked the Council Leader to outline what had been done by Swale, on behalf of the local community. As Cllr Tolhurst asked, why was the only letter on show one that had been sent after he had tabled his question?
On 7th November a delegation of users met the Leader of Kent County Council and it has now been confirmed that a three year extension has been agreed. The announcement was delayed so that Kent County Council could prepare a press release that would reflect well on the administration.
Local Labour is truly delighted with this news. We have backed the community all along because we believe the use of Phoenix House is essential to the health of the Sittingbourne community.
Labour’s Parliamentary candidate Guy Nicholson supported the campaign by local community groups and said ‘This is good news for the many many community groups who use this local facility, the loss of which would have been disastrous for Sittingbourne. In the long run Sittingbourne must have a proper modern purpose built community centre.’