THE HOWBURY CENTRE

The Howbury Centre used to be a local school called Howbury Grange. The Council decided to close this school, which along with the closure of one other school, caused many problems with pupil placement in the area, some children being forced to accept places miles away because the remaining local schools could not cope with the demand. The premises were then handed over to adult education, and it is now a valued and much used facility for this and other activities.

However, for many years the Howbury Centre has suffered from wayward youths and criminals breaking into the premises at night to see what they can pilfer. Many times in the past, procedure and circumstances have led to a slow chain of response involving a very loud and archaic alarm system, that often seemed to have a mind of its own, sounding in the early hours of the morning, local residents being rudely awoken and having to call 999, a lengthy explanation to someone at the police control centre, miles away, who doesn't have a clue as to where you are on about, and an eventual arrival of the local police, as and when they are actually informed and can get a patrol to attend. Never mind, local residents have accepted that this has been the way and have suffered in silence (unlike the alarm).

On the plus side, for many years the facility has also been accessible 'out of hours' and local people have been able to use the associated field for recreation, such as walking their dogs and kicking a ball about. This facility has been much valued by local people and was a little bit of compensation for being rudely awoken in the early hours by the alarm system, and the spillover parking problems associated with this facility, which was originally intended for school children, not all arriving in their own cars.

It was suggested to Bexley Council that CCTV should be implemented together with a remotely monitored alarm connection so that, in the advent of any obvious untoward behaviour, the police could be summoned to deal with the perpetrators. The Council's response to this however was that as most young people wear hoodies nowadays, they cannot always be identified by CCTV, therefore, it would be a waste of time. But this was not really the point. The point of CCTV would have been to to enable real-time supervision of the facility so that the police could be summoned in the event of any suspicious behaviour. Once the kids had got the message that misbehaviour would be met with a police response they would lose interest. Instead of this simple remedy, the Council decided to implement a rather ugly and unsightly security fence, which does not actually stop determined youths from accessing the premises, because they just climb over the gates, but does however deny the local people from using the facility in the evenings and at the weekends to walk their dogs or kick a ball about. In other words the Council has again spent our money on making our lives worse. Society needs more and better facilities, not less, and better management of such facilities so as to sustain their usefulness to the general public - the people that ultimately pay for them. Despite the option of implementing, in many people's view, a far better option in the form of CCTV as suggested, the Council's implementation has not achieved the necessary objective in one area and has made matters worse in another.

However, the story has not finished yet. The Council are now proposing, against the majority public will, and somewhat selfishly it would seem to do away with the Howbury Centre altogether. They want to sell it off along with another eleven or so public owned properties to finance a new civic centre. Do we actually need a new Civic Centre at the expense of so many public facilities?

Further article...
Local Schools for Local Children


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