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Death knell for disabled centre

PUBLISHED: 16:15 09 July 2008 | UPDATED: 09:56 23 August 2010

DISABLED residents who campaigned to save a unique resource centre have been told it is to close in under three months. Members of Queen Elizabeth Foundation Resource Centre, The Brent, Dartford, have protested since closure plans were announced by Kent

DISABLED residents who campaigned to save a unique resource centre have been told it is to close in under three months.

Members of Queen Elizabeth Foundation Resource Centre, The Brent, Dartford, have protested since closure plans were announced by Kent County Council (KCC) a year ago.

They held two large protests outside County Hall in Maidstone in February and June last year and handed over of a 5,000 signature petition.

But this week dejected campaigners were trying to cope with news that their bid had failed and will close on October 18.

Bill Chance, 64, of Claremont Road, Hextable, used the wood working facilities as a form of rehabilitation after suffering a stroke in 2004 and created a rocking horse.

Speaking from the centre he visits most days, he said: "I feel let down. All the way through they have told us they not going to close until other places are ready and nothing is ready yet. We are sitting here totally confused."

Nicky Watson, 39, of Thalia Court, Gravesend, uses the centre's arts and crafts facilities and the gym.

Her husband Mark, 41, said: "We are upset because all her friends are going to be split up and Nicky's not going to have her own independence. KCC are again riding roughshod over everybody. It's not going to be nice. We are going to be stuck in the house with nothing to do."

The centre offers specialist activity-based services which include wood working, art classes and a fully-equipped gym in a building specifically designed for the disabled.

KCC wants to replace this with a direct payment scheme which allows the disabled to use community facilities such as swimming pools, leisure centres and disabled drop in centres.

But the centre's users say as they are not specifically designed for the disabled and the quality and accessibility of activities available will drop dramatically.

Mr Watson said: "In the gym for instance Nicky needs watching like a hawk because of her balance and a mainstream gym are not going to employ somebody just to watch her so then it could be dangerous."

Users of the centre were due to met with KCC yesterday to discuss the situation after the Reporter went to press.

A spokesperson for Kent County Council was unavailable for comment.

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