Record-breaking petitions with more than 10,000 signatures have urged cash-strapped councillors not to shut the much-loved Harrow Arts Centre.
Harrow Council has now finished consulting on £75million of proposed cuts which the Labour administration say need to be made over the next four years and shutting the arts complex in Uxbridge Road, Hatch End, is just one option to help balance the books.
Two separate petitions – one from the University of the Third Age, also known as U3A, and another from the Hatch End Association – calling on councillors to spare the building from the chop will be debated at Thursday's full council meeting at Harrow Civic Centre in Station Road, Harrow.
The Hatch End Association’s petition boasts 5,900 signatures.
Anne Swinson, who has been a committee member of the association for more than 30 years, said: “The arts centre is not just for the elderly, it is for everyone.
“Many young performers get great use of it as well as community groups, and there really is nothing in Harrow that is quite like it.
“Of course we understand that difficult decisions are going to have to be made, but we feel that Harrow Arts Centre has been undervalued by the council, and that they could do much more with it in terms of marketing.
“This is why we felt driven to do this petition.”
U3A, which is based at the arts centre, provides educational, creative and leisure classes for people no longer in full-time employment.
Its petition, which was handed in earlier this week, ran to 5,343 names.
In a statement, U3A said: “We are particularly concerned about the future of Harrow Arts Centre, as we use it constantly for our classes.
“We are also seriously worried that the only community centre in the borough of Harrow, used by groups of many ethnicities, could be under threat of closure.”
Councillor Susan Hall, ward councillor for Hatch End and leader of the Conservative opposition, called the public’s response to the arts centre closure threat as “extraordinary”.
She said: “Their message to the council’s Labour administration is loud and clear – do not close our arts centre. It is a cornerstone of our cultural life in Harrow, and my sincere hope is that Labour listen to what Harrow residents are telling them.”
No decision has been taken yet on whether the arts centre will be axed but the centre’s listings on its website show only two events planned for 2015.
Councillor Sue Anderson (Labour), the council’s cabinet member for community, culture and resident engagement, said: “We are really pleased to find that there is lots of support for the arts centre in the community.
“This shows that people really value art and culture in Harrow.
“Despite the £75million of cuts being imposed on Harrow Council, and our residents, by central government I am hopeful that we will be able to find a way to secure the arts centre’s future.”