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Pledge to fight to save Abbots Activity Centre from closure
Buy this photo » Defiant: Pensioners march along Colchester High Street in 2004 to protest at decision to close Abbots Activity Centre.
Defiant pensioners have declared war in the fight to save their activity centre.
Colchester Council is proposing to close the town’s Abbots Activity Centre as part of a review.
But users of the centre have vowed to fight the move – just as they did seven years ago.
Under the review, the council is proposing to enhance the activities of the town centre site in Lion Walk instead and invest more in that centre.
It will also invest £20,000 a year to support new volunteer-run activity clubs for older people, as well as developing the over-50s club at Leisure World in Colchester.
But the suggestions have caused outrage among the members who use Abbots Activity Centre in Ladbrook Drive.
Great-grandmother Iris Thompson said up to 300 members used the centre from Monday to Friday. The range of activities on offer included pool, carpet bowls, bingo, art, handicrafts, keep fit, computer classes and line dancing and, she said, about 50 hot meals were served each day.
The centre is run by a manager and kitchen staff employed by the council. But widow Mrs Thompson, who is the members’ treasurer, said about 50 volunteers also helped out.
She said: “We have members aged from 49 to over 90. Some of them would sit inside four walls day in, day out if it were not for the centre. They can become isolated and sometimes do not eat correctly.
“The centre offers a place where the members provide friendship and support, and it keeps them active in mind and body.”
Members have also raised thousands of pounds for the centre, and paid for new flooring and blinds for the staff room and office, a steamer for the kitchen and for tables and chairs.
Mrs Thompson added: “Two years ago, the council refurbished the centre. What was the point of that if they are going to close it?”
She was supported by Marilyn Clarke, a volunteer who runs the art class.
Miss Clarke said: “They are suggesting people use the centre in Lion Walk, but there is no room there. The art room is small and it is already full.”
Members added the town centre location was also inaccessible. Joan Balls, 81, who goes to art classes at both the Lion Walk and Abbots Activity centres, said: “There are three buses which come from all over Colchester to Mersea Road, and the bus stop is only 20 yards away from Abbots.
“In town, the bus stops are a long way from the centre and it is difficult for some elderly people to walk there.”
Miss Clarke said Leisure World, too, was some distance from the nearest bus stop.
Graham Warwick, 64, also goes to both centres and said: “This area has a high concentration of elderly people near here and a lot of them are dependent on the Abbots Activity centre. The Lion Walk centre is nice and the people are friendly, but this centre is a lifeline for many.”
Berechurch councillor Dave Harris urged residents to respond to the consultation as soon as possible, and added: “I think the aim of having more activity clubs should be applauded, but I think Abbots Activity centre should remain in some form or another.”