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Grenfell council officers recommend refusing £2.4m community project plans

Planning officers for the council responsible for Grenfell Tower have recommended refusing planning permission for a £2.4 million community project.

Members of the SPID Theatre Company

Youth charity SPID has submitted proposals to refurbish and extend the community rooms in North Kensington's Kensal House estate in west London after securing the funding.

The organisation said it is a "once in a lifetime opportunity" to save the historic theatre and increase free activities following the fire in 2017 that claimed 72 lives.

But officers from the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea have recommended the proposals, which have received 16 objections, should be refused.

A report states the work "would harm the special architectural and historic interest of the Grade II* listed building and wider estate" and result in the "loss of privacy and open space in the communal gardens" for residents of the 68 flats.

Labour councillor Pat Healy is taking the proposals to a planning committee in Kensington town hall on Tuesday night, where a decision is expected to be made.

SPID, which does theatre with young people from council estates, has run the community rooms for 15 years, but said the space is run-down with leaks, poor electrics and crumbling walls.

Artistic director Helena Thompson said the charity has been developing plans for four years and fears funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund, Big Lottery and the Mayor's Fund, among others, could be lost if they are not approved.

This is our big chance to save it. It's historic, it's a community resource, and it's for the children. We do award-winning youth work," she said.

It's an estate next to Grenfell. It's an amazing opportunity. We have done everything we can. It's completely unprecedented," she added.

It's make or break and if we can't get the planning permission, we cannot change the plans again. We will lose the funding.

– Helena Thompson, Artistic Director

SPID said the plans have been supported by Historic England, along with those funding the project, and believes objections have been fuelled by the poor condition of the estate as a whole.

The council need to see the big picture and support the refurbishment of this incredible youth space. SPID has been a saving grace since Grenfell; young people like me need this project now more than ever.

– Naomi Israel, Youth Ambassador

We recognise the important work the SPID theatre does, supporting them with more than £130,000 in grant funding since 2010.

Since the Grenfell tragedy we have been working with them to provide a new 25-year lease to support them in their fundraising activities.

The planning committee takes into account the views and needs of local residents when making decisions on new developments that require planning permission. The proposals will be discussed at tomorrow's planning committee, along with any objections and letters of support.

– Council statement