Big family' split up by centre closure
PUBLISHED: 15:50 22 October 2008 | UPDATED: 10:11 23 August 2010
DISABLED campaigners have lost their battle to save a vital resource centre. Despite a year-long campaign, doors at Queen Elizabeth Foundation Resource Centre, in The Brent, Dartford, closed last Friday. Protests included a rally at County Hall in Maid
DISABLED campaigners have lost their battle to save a vital resource centre.
Despite a year-long campaign, doors at Queen Elizabeth Foundation Resource Centre, in The Brent, Dartford, closed last Friday.
Protests included a rally at County Hall in Maidstone and Westminster and a 5,000-signature petition.
Members of the centre were emotional as they left on a final outing, to Southend.
Peter Reeves, 66, of Leonard Avenue, Swanscombe, said: "I'm very, very sad. We all are. They are splitting us up. Some people have been coming here for 20 years or more. We are all like a big family.
"It's a very sad day today but we are determined to have a good time."
Kent County Council (KCC) will now offer alternative facilities three days a week at Riverside Centre, in Dickens Road, Gravesend, the Adult Education Centre, in Summerhill Road, Dartford, and the Junction Community Centre, in St Mary's Road, Swanley, but service users still have doubts about these arrangements.
Nicky Watson, 39, of Thalia Court, Gravesend, used the centre's arts and craft facilities and the gym.
Her husband Mark, 41, said: "Nicky and I went up to Cascades to look at the disabled gym they were replacing the gym at the Queen Elizabeth Centre with and all they had was a squash court with nothing in it.
"When they had all these meetings they said they wouldn't close the centre until everything was up and running."
Sonia Mallion, of Oliver Road, Swanley, added: "They do seem to have taken on board some of our comments but we are still only being given three days a week.
"Until we get in and see how it works we won't know.
"We want to ensure at the end of the day Kent will provide what they have said. We will be keeping a very close eye on everything."
Graham Gibbens, KCC's cabinet member for adult social services, said: "This change in the way day opportunities are provided is an important step forward.
"It means we can offer opportunities in a way that is inclusive, that discourages segregation and shows that everyone is part of the community.