Campaigners are calling for a Lewisham youth centre which served the community for 44 years to return to public use amid claims new tenants are illegitimately using the space privately.

Lewisham Way Youth and Community Centre, at number 138, was home to range of groups and services, including choirs, parenting support and mentoring, from 1972 until its closure in 2016, primarily targeted towards the Afro Caribbean community.

While the building’s leasehold terms required is used as a community centre, it is alleged that the current leaseholder, a music and audio production company named House of Noise, has been using the building as an office space for at least two years.

News Shopper: A picture taken this year shows the signage has been removed

Richard Parry, a 37-year-old artist from New Cross, started a petition calling for the space to be brought back into public use.

He said: “If leasehold terms were enforced, 138 Lewisham Way would still be a Community Centre.

“It is incorrect to suggest there isn’t, wasn’t, or won’t be needs for a local community centre at 138 Lewisham Way.

“The 2017 Lewisham Poverty Commission Report offers a snapshot of how residents value community centres in terms of poverty, underdeveloped employment skills and strengthening support within circumstances intensified through COVID- 19 and Black Lives Matter.”

Lewisham Council’s website lists 138 Lewisham way as a “multi-purpose building that offers educational and enrichment activities for children, young people and adults from within the wider community, and function rooms for businesses and organisations to hire.”

Current leaseholder House of Noise applied for retrospective permission to change the use of the building from a community centre to an "office and shared work space" earlier this year. 

The application was refused by the council, with the decision stating that it failed to "adequately demonstrate that there is no demand for social infrastructure facilities in the local area and that the change of use to offices is appropriate."

This followed a previous application by House of Noise to change the use of the space to a cafe in 2020, which was also refused on the basis that it would breach its use as a community centre.

Lewisham Council says that after sitting vacant for several years after 2016, the building was leased to House of Noise, which has carried out refurbishments.

The council claims it has been made aware of concerns about the building's current use and is investigating the issues raised.

A spokesperson from Lewisham Council said: “We appreciate the important role that 138 Lewisham Way played in the community for many years.

“However, it has not been used as a community centre since 2016 as a suitable tenant could not be found and the building was in a poor state of repair.

“There are a range of alternative community venues in the surrounding area, including the Moonshot Centre in New Cross and the New Cross Learning Library.

“After sitting vacant for a number of years, it was leased to a local music and audio production house which supports other local businesses by providing affordable workspace.

“They have carried out work to refurbish the building and bring it back into use.

“We are aware of residents’ concerns in relation to its current usage and are investigating the issues raised.”

House of Noise has been contacted for comment.