It is most probable, in the long run, that the infants and young children who are currently being forced to use the Lancaster West Community Rooms as a crèche will be the greatest victims of the whole Maxilla debacle.

We, in the Grenfell Action Group, will continue to challenge the RBKC and will show beyond doubt that our last remaining meeting venue is not suitable for use as a crèche. We do not believe that the Council has fully answered the questions regarding health and safety, including those regarding toileting and sanitation, put to them by Cllr Blakeman, and neither do we believe that the crèche meets with the requirements of the ‘Statutory Framework for the Early Years Foundation Stage’ to which the Council referred in its formal response to her.

The use of these premises as a nursery is neither safe nor appropriate and the Council and TMO need to wake up to this fact before any child is harmed as a result of their negligence, ineptitude and carelessness.

Meanwhile, the residents of Lancaster West Estate are left scratching their heads wondering just how the TMO contrived to deprive our community of our last remaining meeting space. It is totally unacceptable that the RBKC’s decision to close the Maxilla Nursery should result in the Lancaster West Community losing our ability to “commune”.

We recently questioned Janet Seward of the TMO as to why she felt it was more important to dance to the tune of the local council by providing this inadequate nursery provision rather than working for the interests of the tenants and leaseholders of Lancaster West to preseve our community rooms. The main part of her reply is reproduced below;

“… regarding the nursery facilities in the Lancaster West Community Rooms, (the former estate services office)…you questioned why the TMO took over the rooms without consultation. I do apologise for that. I don’t know the background to the nursery being homeless but I do know that the request to use the community rooms was made at very short notice. With hindsight, I accept that we could, if not consulted, at least have advised residents, but at the time, we were taken up with the urgency of providing reasonable facilities. I’m not aware that the rooms were used by residents during the weekdays or that we have forced any group out. I would say however that there is no problem with using the rooms in the evening and the nursery do not use the facilities on Monday or Friday or at the weekend.”

It is clear from this response that the post-Maxilla arrangements were made in haste and without proper planning or consideration of the impact on the children who would be affected. A member of the Grenfell Action Group has now raised this matter as a Stage 2 complaint with the TMO and responded to Ms Seward’s reply in the following manner;

“With respect, you appear to have been misled into thinking that the “rooms were not used during the day”. Our community has a long history of using these community rooms both during the daytime and for evening time resident meetings. Up until the recent demise of the Lancaster West Residents Association one room in the community rooms was used by them as a full-time office. This office was frequently staffed by volunteers from the RA and often acted as a community hub during weekdays.

More recently, members of our community have needed to use the rooms to hold various daytime meetings . For example, we have recently used this venue during the daytime to meet with our MP, Lady Borwick, and she is scheduled to return to visit us again in the near future. We will now have nowhere on Lancaster West Estate to meet with our MP when she returns.

In addition, members of our community have used the community rooms during the daytime to meet with other visitors such as the Leader of RBKC Council, Cllr Paget Brown and our previous MP, Sir Malcolm Rifkind. We have used the room to meet with other community stakeholders and also to facilitate more formal RBKC “consultations” and meetings with members of the Resident Engagement Team.

Residents have also recently used the room as a resource for short-term storage for items for resident fundays and other events”.

We have also pointed out to Ms Seward that the manner in which access to the community room was denied to residents was totally unacceptable. Despite the fact that the TMO knew full well that a resident group from Grenfell Tower had been meeting, every Wednesday evening, at this venue for over eight months we were given no warning that our evening meetings would have to cease because of the refurbishment required to convert the Community Room for use as a nursery. This news was delivered with a smirk on the face of Lancaster West Estate Manager, Siobhan Rumble, who we suspect got some perverse satisfaction from informing residents that we could no longer use the community room and that the TMO would not help us find an alternative venue for our meetings.  This treatment of our community was contemptible and demonstrates that the TMO are incapable of empathising or responding appropriately to the needs of our community.

The Grenfell Action Group has also conveyed to Ms Seward our concerns that other community stakeholders, such as the Muslim Homework Club and the Domino Club, have not been communicated with or treated properly by the TMO with regards their ability to continue to use the community rooms. We will be asking the TMO to clarify what has happened to these groups since the decision to use our community rooms as a nursery was made.

In addition, the timing of all this is most unfortunate since the Lancaster West Resident Association has just re-constituted and the Grenfell Tower Residents Association has recently been formed and both these Associations now need a meeting space on a more regular basis. We no longer have a venue to hold daytime meetings and the TMO needs to return our community rooms back to residents for this use. The Grenfell Action Group believes that the TMO has no right to obstruct our right to hold residents meetings by seizing all premises previously used by residents for this purpose. To make matters worse, all of this was done without the TMO having the courtesy to engage in any consultation with residents.

Lancaster West Estate is the largest Estate in RBKC, and for our landlord to deprive tenants and leaseholders of all adequate meeting space, the EMB Community Rooms, the Lancaster West Estate Resource Centre, and now our last remaining meeting room is not acceptable or right. We will not give up the fight until our right to “commune” is restored and we will continue to advocate for the wellbeing of local children and against the use of the community rooms as a supposed suitable venue for a crèche.

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