A community centre that has helped thousands of underprivileged children is set to be demolished to make way for new housing.
Shannon McNab, founder of Simply Smiley Productions, which provides entertainment and lessons for local children, claims she has been told by freeholders that there are plans to demolish Oval Arts Depot in Harleyford Street, Kennington, after she approached them to extend the licence.
Ms McNab was initially given a three-year licence for use of the property and has spent £60,000 of her own money on the project, which includes theatre space, green areas and community gardens, after being displaced from her last property.
Children are taught yoga from a young age (Picture: Simply Smiley Productions)
Established in 2005, the group provides music lessons, singing, dancing, yoga, sports and play spaces for children in the area, and previous participants often return to help younger children and become unofficial community youth leaders.
Ms McNab also hosts coffee mornings for the community, as well as winter markets and theatrical performances.
“The services we provide are essential to the well-being of underprivileged kids,” she said.
“Many of these children have disrupted home lives, in single parent households and live on or below the poverty line. There is nowhere else for us to go and the closure will be a terrible blow to so many people.”
This is the second time Ms McNab has been displaced, after being moved from Oval House Theatre to make way for a Travelodge for fans visiting the Oval cricket ground.
The group awaits the decision from Lambeth council for the demolition to go ahead, with Ms McNab being told by Hyde Housing that it hopes to move bulldozers in by Christmas.
A residents’ meeting is expected on Friday, September 15, where residents and centre users will meet to discuss the plans.
Richard Evans, portfolio management director at the Hyde Group said: “At Kennington Park, we’re committed to the ongoing provision of community services.
“Any redevelopment of the existing community spaces will provide at least the same amount of space in new and improved energy efficient buildings with new affordable homes above.
“We’re in the very early stages of the design and are discussing our plans with the community and users of the community centre. We hope to submit a planning application in Summer 2024.”
Lambeth council has been approached for comment.
Pictured top: Children play at Oval Arts Depot in Harleyford Street, Kennington (Picture: Simply Smiley Productions)
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