Plans for Southall’s Manor House to be turned into a hub for creatives, entrepreneurs and the community look set to be delayed after Ealing Council’s partner to manage the building has pulled out.
Last June, Ealing Council announced it was working with Meanwhile Space, to manage the Grade II* listed building for two years and invited residents to take part in a survey to help share plans for how Manor House can be restored and used by people in Southall.
The Council has told EALING.NEWS that Meanwhile Space “could not afford to operate the building”.
Councillor Connie Hersch, Liberal Democrat Councillor and opposition spokesperson for Crime and Communities, said: “People in Ealing are frustrated, angry and upset with the Labour-led council. Liberal Democrats say that residents feel that their views are not considered and their voices are not heard. Existing facilities for the community and sports are mismanaged or left to fall into disrepair. Gurnell Leisure Centre and Southall Manor House are just two of the latest examples.”
During summer 2022, Council leader Councillor Peter Mason cut the ribbon to reopen Manor House and said in a statement: “I think it’s going to be a really bright future for Southall over the next year and beyond and I am really looking forward to coming back here in a couple months’ time when this place will be buzzing and thriving and people will feel like this theirs, because it is.”
The ribbon cutting ceremony also saw Ealing South MP Virendra Sharma join in the celebration along with Ealing Council cabinet members Councillor Shital Manro for Good Growth and Councillor Jasbir Anand for Thriving Communities.
At the time Meanwhile Space said: “Our aim is to create a space that brings benefit to the people of Southall and is able to sustain itself financially and so build a long-term future.”
Councillor Hersch added: “Labour has left Ealing without a cinema for 15 years, shown no way forward on Gurnell Leisure Centre for over 8 years and now Southall Manor where another deal has collapsed. Liberal Democrats believe this shows Labour’s incompetent negotiation, financial management and delivery skills. In order to compensate for such failings the new local plan proposes de-designation of green spaces to hand them over to developers and to build new sports facilities on a unique nature spot in the borough, Warren Farm. Plans which destroy nature will change Ealing for ever. Many thousands of residents have signed petitions and have expressed their distress about these plans to the Council. Has the Council and its leader listened?”
Explaining why Manor House is currently not open as planned, an Ealing Council spokesperson told EALING.NEWS: “Due to an unpredicted rise in costs associated with operating the building, predominantly on utilities, Meanwhile Space could not afford to operate the building and consequently could not enter into a lease with the council. In light of the additional costs, the council is considering alternative viable options for the building, so it can be fully activated and support the local community.”
The Council also revealed that while not open to the public for community activities, “The building is currently used to host local engagement events,” the spokesperson added.
Southall resident, Angela Fonso from Clean Air for Southall and Hayes (CASH) who wanted to use Manor House as a community venue told EALING.NEWS: “I emailed Meanwhile Space about booking the Manor House and I was informed that they no longer manage the place. I haven’t seen any promotion by the council about the change of management and contact information for enquiries.”
Ms Fonso added: “It is unfortunate that Manor House appears to be inaccessible to the public at the moment as residents need a community centre which hosts a variety of activities to improve social inclusion.”
EALING.NEWS asked if the plans for Manor House have changed. The Council spokesperson said: “As outlined in our council plan, our ambition to have the building fully activated as a centre for business incubation has not changed. However, given the context, it is clear that a revised approach is required, and officers are looking into all available options to ensure that the building can be used to support local businesses as best as possible.”