The final days of Fitzrovia Neighbourhood Centre

Housing and welfare advice service could relocate to more affordable premises in Kings Cross if funding is secured.

The Fitzrovia Neighbourhood Centre will close its doors in June for the last time after five decades of delivering a housing and welfare advice service and numerous community projects from the Tottenham Street building.

Street view of Fitzrovia Neighbourhood Centre.

After 44 years since it first opened in 1975 on the corner of Tottenham Street and Goodge Place, the Fitzrovia Neighbourhood Centre along with its advice service and community projects will close for last time this month.

Camden Council, which owns the site and needs to carry out repairs and plans to redevelop the listed Georgian building, has offered Fitzrovia Neighbourhood Association alternative accommodation at Cromer Street in Kings Cross.

Camden has also agreed to allow the FNA to return to a smaller Neighbourhood Centre on the ground floor at 39 Tottenham Street after its redevelopment subject to the organisation being able to pay the rent, securing funding, and if the reduced size of the premises is viable to operate from. Under Camden’s redevelopment plans, the basement will be converted to a flat to be sold at a market price and the upper floors will be converted to self-contained housing to be let at a social rent.

Staff and trustees of the FNA have agreed in principle to relocate the advice service to Kings Cross because there is no other suitable, affordable premises in Fitzrovia available.

The housing and welfare advice service has a wider catchment area than the boundaries of Fitzrovia with people travelling from all over Camden and Westminster (and often other boroughs) in search of help with living, such is the need for the service.

However, the FNA cannot carry out its community development projects that are specific to Fitzrovia because the premises are located in a different neighbourhood. Instead the community development workers plan to use occasional accommodation at a variety of sites in Fitzrovia in order to continue its arts and crafts work and health projects.

The FNA’s role as an amenity society, responding to planning, licensing and other consultations, and the publication of Fitzrovia News will continue to be done by trustees and volunteers from their homes.

The Friends of Fitzrovia Parks who work with Camden Council to improve Crabtree Fields and Whitfield Gardens is also supported by the FNA as is the work of the Charlotte Street Association which has done the bulk of the planning and licensing work since 1970. These groups intend to continue their work in tandem with the FNA.

The Fitzrovia Festival which was first held in 1973 and celebrates the residential community, its struggles for affordable housing and community facilities under the banner “The People Live Here!” is also supported by the FNA and there are plans to continue the event.

The Neighbourhood Centre was first opened in 1975 after volunteers got together to refurbish a former glass shop and raised money to employ staff to provide professional housing and welfare advice and support campaigns to improve housing and community facilities for the district that was very mixed both by social class and ethnicity. It was one of several community advice centres established in the 1970s across Camden and other inner London boroughs.

The Fitzrovia Mural at Whitfield Gardens on Tottenham Court Road, painted in 1980, captured the spirit and struggles of the 1970s — a timeless art piece, decaying but still as relevant as ever. The mural was designed and painted by artists Simon Barber and Mick Jones at the Neighbourhood Centre after interviewing local people.

As Fitzrovia News went to press the future of the advice service at Kings Cross and many of the community projects in Fitzrovia is uncertain. Due to a lack of funding being secured from the end of June the organisation has had no choice but to issue notices of redundancy to its staff and termination of contracts to its session workers.

The last drop-in housing and welfare advice service will be on Tuesday 11 June and the final women’s advice service will be on Wednesday 12 June.

The FNA will hold its annual general meeting on Monday 24 June at the Neighbourhood Centre. Camden council will take possession of the building on 1 July, and a half-century long chapter of continuous community action in the building will draw to a close.

Fitzrovia Neighbourhood Association AGM, 6.30pm Monday 24 June at the Fitzrovia Neighbourhood Centre, 39 Tottenham Street, London W1T.

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