Speeches etc.

There are 4 items on this page; please scroll down to the relevant item, as follows:

1.  Action Group Speech - Protest, 8 October 2010
2.  Action Group Speech - Meeting of the Full Council, 27 October 2010
3.  Support from the Fulham Society
4.  Action Group Speech - Meeting of Council Cabinet, 7 February 2011

1.  Action Group Speech delivered outside the Centre - Friday 8 October 2010

Excerpt from a speech delivered outside the Sands End Centre on 8 October 2010.  This protest was attended by some 300-400 residents plus Mr Greg Hands MP, member for Chelsea and Fulham and Cllr Stephen Cowan, Labour Leader of the opposition on the Council.  

In July, Hammersmith and Fulham Council launched a consultation over the proposed sale of several buildings in the Borough, one of which is our beloved Community Centre & Library.  Sadly, this consultation was held precisely during the weeks when a good number of local people would be away on their summer holiday.  Because of this, many residents never knew that a consultation was even in progress - and many still don’t.

As soon as the proposed sale was announced, a local resident, May Patterson, raised a petition, on behalf of the whole community, against the Council’s plan.

The wishes of the People of Sands End, as represented by this Petition, are that the Council reconsiders its plan to sell the Sands End Centre.  Furthermore, the wishes of the People of Sands End are that the Council engage with us, as soon as practicable, on an extensive programme to revive, revitalise and reinvigorate the Centre in order to establish this vital resource once more as the focal point of our Community - not merely the Sands End Centre... more the Centre Of Sands End.

The official consultation asked some useful questions - but it was all a bit.... official.

The true consultation is, of course, represented and embodied by this petition.  In gathering these signatures, which at present total over 6000, the petitioners spoke to real people about the real issues which really matter to them.  The petitioners did not do “the easy thing”.  Instead, they did the complete opposite.  

The petitioners were out there on street corners, whatever the weather, listening to people and they were there, on the other end of a telephone, when someone called. The petitioners engaged with people, face to face, outside their own homes, outside supermarkets, in their schools and places of work.  

Each and every signature was gathered within the Sands End Ward.  Not many people who signed this petition merely did so and walked away.  Most had questions to ask, a point to make or a story to tell.  

This Petition is their voice.  This petition is OUR voice.

The result of all this effort represents the wishes, the desires and the aspirations of over 6000 people.  This is some two thirds of the Sands End Ward - butchers, bakers, candlestick-makers yes... but lawyers, bankers and accountants, too.    The petitioners now have their own consultation document - the Real Consultation.  It is not merely a catalogue of gripes.  It is a list of excellent, positive ideas to present to the Council - a plan for the future, distilled from the hundreds of hours during which petitioners talked, sometimes at great length, to these concerned residents.  For instance (it’s just one example... but we heard this one a lot) the Council speaks about “prioritising services over bricks and mortar”, yet all we are seeing is the dilution of services, while the very bricks and mortar which were bought and maintained by the People of Sands End are sold off, piece by piece.  

We all have tough financial choices to make these days and we know that the Council has tough choices to make also.  All we wish and hope for is that the Council, with our help, makes good choices.  Fair choices.  The right choices.

The Sands End Centre is not just “bricks and mortar”.  It is far greater than the sum of its parts.  It is the beating heart of this diverse, close-knit and remote part of the Borough.  Its enormous size and its specialized architecture make it an invaluable resource, to be treasured and celebrated rather than cast aside. 

In his speech to the Conservative conference just the other day, Eric Pickles - the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government - said two very important things, which strike at the very heart of what is happening here in Sands End.  He said, ‘Slash and burn is pointless and wrong.’  And he said, ‘It is time to put communities back in charge’.

Let us, together, demonstrate to our Council the wisdom of these words.  Let us demonstrate to them the negativity of “slash and burn” whilst pointing out all the positive benefits of putting this, our community, back in charge. 

The People of Sands End respectfully ask that the Council urgently reconsiders its plan to sell the Centre. Moreover, we respectfully and urgently ask that the Council embarks, with local residents, on a programme to revive, revitalise and reinvigorate the Centre in such a way that it both serves the present community and shall become a lasting legacy to future generations.


2.  Action Group Speech delivered at meeting of the Full Council, Fulham Town Hall, 27 October 2010

Notes on presentation to H&F Council concerning the proposed closure of Sands End Community Centre and Library

Mr Mayor, Councillors, Officers of the Council, Ladies and Gentlemen. 

My colleagues and I are here this evening to present to you with a petition of a magnitude we believe to be unprecedented in the history of this Borough.

The wishes of the People of Sands End, as represented by this enormous petition of almost 7,000 signatures, are that the Council reconsiders its plan to sell our Community Centre.  On the contrary, the wishes of the people are that the Council engage with us, as soon as practicable, on a programme to revive, revitalise and re-invigorate the Centre - to establish it, once more, as the beating heart of our community.

Today, Sands End is a largely residential area.  From the high-rise developments of Jubilee wharf and the exclusive Harbour Club, one could easily get the impression of a well-heeled society... but that would be only half the story. In truth, this remote part of the borough is characterised by huge disparities of personal wealth.   There are various private sports clubs for those who can afford them - but only one facility which caters for those of more modest means.
That facility is Sands End Community Centre.

The Centre is used by locals rich and poor and of all ages and backgrounds.  In this respect it contributes importantly to social cohesion in what is an under-served and isolated part of the Borough.

If the Centre were to be destroyed, this would have a major and damaging long-term effect on the lives of many voters.

The notion that facilities could be relocated to Hammersmith or even to other parts of Fulham is flawed, as many such locations that have been suggested are at best unsuitable and, in many instances, so far away as to make any journey out of the question for the elderly, disabled and children, especially during the long winter months. 

The Centre contributes significantly to social cohesion;  the location of all the sports, educational, health and welfare activities under one roof makes the Centre, in its existing form, a very real asset to our community.  With better management it has the capacity to offer so much more, especially to our people... who might well feel the difficulties of this economic downturn the most.  With massive property developments in the pipeline – including the huge new Sainsbury’s complex, we can expect a significant increase in population - adding yet further pressure on finances and local services.  Due to its enormous size, the Centre could easily cater for such an increase.  We have heard talk of building ‘community hubs’ - well, in Sands End we already have one... and it is already built.

In short, this is no time to contemplate doing away with a vital community resource which, once sold, will never be replaced.  And make no mistake about that.  The Centre is much more than the sum of its parts.  It is so much more than mere “bricks and mortar”.

It is common knowledge that the Community Centre and Library have been less than successful in recent years and the Consultation document relies exclusively on this so-called ‘lack of use’ for its case to close the Centre. We have no time right now to go into detail... but suffice to say that we will be challenging the selective statistics and the Council’s conclusions. We will also reveal management shortcomings  –  business turned away, overbearing bureaucracy (which stifles initiative) and lack of marketing - all of which,  for a Conservative-run council, show a surprising lack of both management skills and entrepreneurial spirit. For example we note the opening times of the Centre – is it really sensible for the gym to open at 10 a.m. on weekdays and not at all at the weekend?  Indeed, the most prominent word on the Centre timetable is ‘CLOSED’.  

Furthermore the Council has not proposed any realistic alternatives for the relocation of services, highlighted by the suggestion to move “Sure Start” to the Playhouse - a move hugely unpopular with all concerned, creating, as it does, more problems than it solves.  

And the notion that local schools could, between them, accommodate and manage a public library, adult learning and skills courses, a university-standard pottery as well as a fully-equipped gym is surely fanciful.  And let’s not forget the plethora of non-specific benefits that the Centre brings.  It welcomes, accommodates and comforts.  For many, it is a sanctuary. 

The Library alone is more than a mere repository for books - it is a vital education resource used by children and parents alike. In Sands End  our library also provides not only a creche for the very young but also a warm and safe environment for pensioners, the unemployed and bright schoolchildren whose home environment may prohibit useful study –  where else would they go?  The Library is often their only place of refuge.


The Council’s mantra of “services rather than buildings” is a myth, as clearly demonstrated by its proposal to destroy the Community Centre:  the very building, the very “bricks and mortar” which two generations of voters have maintained as a service to the community. 

We and the 7,000 petitioners and the writers of hundreds of letters - from schoolteachers, the Police, lawyers, psychologists, NHS professionals, the Family Assist people and the Fulham Society (not to mention the 106 letters received from children) -  all say that the Community Centre and Library should not be sold.  All the Centre’s many activities belong together - under one roof.  Properly managed the Centre can be a positive force for good, encouraging cohesion in our community and providing support and personal development to individuals and their families, without being a burden on the taxpayer. 

Both we and the Council have a common goal.  We want services delivered efficiently and economically.  Given the opportunity, the people of Sands End will work tirelessly with the Council to achieve this, our common aim. 

If we are to engage with the Prime Minister in building a Big Society, let us look no further.  Here it is.  

Councillors - with your help, we can turn Sands End Community Centre  into a model - a Flagship - for that Big Society.


3.  Fulham Society Comments on the Proposal to Close the Sands End Community Centre (12/09/ 2010)

Preliminary General Comments

Sands End is a Community and has been one for a considerable time. As the make-up of
the area is being changed dramatically, it is very important that this community spirit be
sustained.  With the developments of Imperial Wharf and Sainsbury’s, a large number of affordable
homes will become available whose inhabitants will include children, elderly people, and
disabled. It is vital for both elderly and less privileged residents that there are easily
accessible facilities in the immediate area – and that they should not have to make the
considerable journey to Fulham Centre or Hammersmith to enjoy them. We are concerned,
therefore, that it is planned to move so many facilities out of the area: adult education, gym
& sports facilities, the library, etc. leaving essentially no community centre.

Comments specific to The Sands End Centre

On 18 August 2010 some members of the Fulham Society Committee were given a tour of
The Sands End Community Centre. They were astonished and delighted at the scope and
possibilities of this extensive site, which they consider could be a successful self-financing
unit as well as a hub of activity for the local community.

This is a large building, light, clean and well-decorated. The gym, pottery, metal-work, and
art studios on the ground floor have been extensively and expensively well-equipped. They
cover a large area and have been fitted-out in a manner, which no Council could afford to
reproduce elsewhere. It is understood that some £2,000,000 has been spent recently on the
roof of the building. Were there any conditions attached to this funding?

The first floor is used mainly for the Children's Centre, which include numerous services
for small children, including health visitor and midwifery clinics. These essential local
services will become ever more important with the rise in local population expected when
the affordable housing in the area is completed. We understand these would be located
elsewhere in the area. However with the possible demise, due to problems with funding, of
the Townmead Youth Club as well as of SEPIA, the Sands End play centre for 3 to 10 year
olds, facilities for the young at the Centre will be even more vital.

The Council has apparently made no effort to make the Centre an effective self-financing
concern, yet the Ground and Second floors have great potential for raising funds. The
building does not have an overall central Manager who could rent out the facilities when
they were not being used. Various rooms are under the control of different areas of the
Council, which makes nonsense of having the building used to its full capacity.
The second floor rooms have been empty and unused for a considerable time. They are
self-contained, with all facilities including disabled access. The stud-wall partitions are
moveable, making the area easily adaptable as either offices or studios. Therefore this unit
is ideal for letting.

The large rooms on the Ground Floor have many possibilities, yet the Gym, which is very
well attended, appears to be consistently run down; a proper charging policy has not been
put in place (many locals consider it too cheap); the equipment is not being properly
maintained. Is there a maintenance contract in place? More machines in use would bring in
higher income, plus the prevention of a Health & Safety hazard. The Badminton Court
seems to be the last provided by the Council in the area, another source of income.
The two very good dance studios, under a rationalized letting policy, could be let out
commercially when not needed; there is always a demand for class and rehearsal space, and
would be a good source of income.

The Library seems to have been run-down: the choice of books is not good, the reference
section is non-existent and no effort has been made to keep it as a viable living concern. Yet
Fulham Library is a mile away and not practicable for schoolchildren or the old. One must
also remember the future increase in local population.

We deplore the fact that most Adult Education courses funded by the Council appear to
have been moved to the McBeth Centre in Hammersmith for the next education year..
Metal-work and Pottery seem to be the exception, and again, these magnificent studios
should be a source of funds when not used for Council classes. We feel very strong that
Adult Education classes, especially those likely to be used by the elderly and less
privileged, should be held as locally as possible. The Centre has historically been used for

On 6 September two members of the Fulham Society Committee visited the Macbeth
Centre to discover if and how the activities at Sands End Centre could be incorporated
there. It was apparent that all available rooms were already in full use, and even the crèche
had been closed and the space re-allocated. There seemed no possibility that the facilities
from Sands End could be accommodated as well, it is not practicable.

By coincidence, it was the Registration day for the English as a Second Language course
and such a large number of people were waiting to enrol that it suggested that similar
courses should be instigated at Sands End, especially with the increase in local population
expected soon. The recent closure of the crèche at Macbeth Street could be another
problem: many people waiting to enrol were accompanied by small children whose
presence in classrooms could cause difficulties for both teachers and students.

The Fulham Society feels very strongly that The Sands End Centre should be
retained and maintained by the Council as the centre and focus of a developing
community. If this extensive site is disposed of now, there is no possibility of the Council
being able to afford anything similar for the local community in the future.


•  The appointment of a Centre Manger for all the accommodation in the building to run a
comprehensive letting service for all facilities.

•  Council facilities for the community should remain local, and where necessary, updated and
repaired at the Centre.

•  Meeting rooms for local societies, groups, etc. should be made available: another source of

•  Above all there should be Publicity for the many delights and opportunities available at the
Centre, promoted locally and in the Press. The public has to know of them before they can
use them: more activities bring in more revenue.

The Fulham Society 12 September 2010


STOP PRESS -  from The Fulham Society News Letter, Number 83, October 2010

On Friday 8 October about 200 well-wishers gathered in Broughton Road to demonstrate, in a polite friendly manner, their support for The Sands End Community Centre.  The Police kindly kept the road free of cars while pupils from the nearby Langford Primary School sang their song and three bowler-hatted brass instrumentalists played stirring music.

The speakers included Councillor Stephen Cowan, Labour Leader on the Borough Council, and Mr Greg Hands, the local Member of Parliament.  The latter emphasized that the decision on the Centre's future rested with the Council, but that he, personally, hoped it would continue.  Everyone agreed that Local Government cuts were necessary but thought the Community Centre was too important, for the area, to be allowed to close.  It was announced that the Consultation Period had been extended until 10 November.



In 1978 when plans were first put forward to convert the Sunlight Laundry to a Community Centre, the Council of the day understood the meaning of Localism. They understood the meaning of “putting residents first”.

Some of the aims of the proposed new Centre were, and I quote:

To provide job experience, social services and a Sports Hall
To provide a resource for the development of Residents’ needs and ideas
To alleviate the isolation of the elderly
To promote a sharing and caring Community neighbourhood

All in all - and I quote again:

“To unite Sands End residents and encourage them to take a full share in the ordering of the district so that their voices may be heard and that the quality of life at all levels may be improved”.

They had a good grasp of what “Big Society” meant back then!  And over the past three decades the Centre - and those who have worked in it - have provided all of the above for the residents of Sands End.  Yet today, at this very hour, all of these ideas and ideals, all these great achievements stand in the gravest peril.

In July, the Council announced its plan to close Sands End Centre.  Shortly after, they launched a so-called Consultation.  The first thing residents did was to raise a petition against the Council’s plan.  This petition eventually gained some 7,000 signatures - representing about four fifths of Sands End Ward.  

Around this time, Councillor Greg Smith stated that, were there to be a sufficient groundswell of opinion, then obviously the Council would have to think again.  But we have no evidence of that happening.  In the eyes of this Council, it appears that even 80% is not a sufficient groundswell. 

Much later, the Council extended the consultation, on the pretext that they had been listening to residents and wished to “get further views”. This was not the case at all. The Council had been obliged to extend the consultation following a legal challenge  by a courageous local pensioner - whose quality of life will be deeply impaired by the closure of Sands End Centre.

For the Consultation to have been democratic, adequate and fair, we should have been consulted not only on options for re-locating services but also on the possible continued provision of those services in the Centre.

By the Council’s own admission, it is the wish of the vast majority of those consulted (some 75% of respondents) that the Centre stay open .  It is our view and those of the residents we represent that this consultation has been a sham.  It has been the Council’s explicit assumption, throughout the consultation process, that the Centre would close.   The Council had no intention of taking into account the wishes of its residents... unless those wishes agreed with their own. The Council had already decided, long ago, to sell the Centre and disperse or even close its services.

We have put the financial argument to the Council - that selling the Centre is a false economy.  Why relocate services elsewhere, with all the costs that would entail, when those very services are doing just fine where they are?  And what would this relocation of services cost?  Has the Council weighed the cost of relocation against the sale price?  No, they have not.  No figures exist for any such relocation.

The Council claims that the Centre is underused when, all along, it has been they who have allowed it to run down - through bad management, lack of marketing budgets and burdensome bureaucracy.   All the best efforts of highly-trained and dedicated staff have been hampered by a lack of vision and inspiration from their managers.  Now they face redundancy.

And what of the social impact on the closing of the centre and the scattering of its facilities? Health professionals recognise the importance, and the significant benefit to the community, of services being under one roof, encouraging social interaction – alleviating the isolation of the elderly, the disabled and the lonely.  We can only be building up problems for the future, especially in view of the likelihood of greater financial misery and further unemployment.
Even during these last few months, the figures for the Fulham South Children’s Centre at Sands End, have risen from 870 registered families to 918.  Scattering Sure Start, along with Family Assist to... who-knows-where... will diminish the lives of countless children and leave vulnerable teenagers without a refuge. Bright schoolchildren, for whom the Library has become a sanctuary from an often disruptive domestic situation, will most likely give up and go off the rails.

Closing this building, with its countless amenities contained under one roof, would be a disaster for this small, isolated Ward.

The Council should look further than its balance sheet.  The damage caused by closing Sands End Centre would cost much, much more than the trifling amount to be gained by its sale.   There is already on the council’s desk a proposal from a developer, offering the money the council is looking for, whilst at the same time retaining the community facilities.  Today, another developer has come forward, this time to buy the building and lease it back to the community.  In our view it would be quite irresponsible and irrational were the Council not to step back and consider such proposals before any irrevocable decision is taken.

The Council should remember that it is are merely the custodian.  

Sands End Centre belongs to the community.