Brixton Rec Users Group (BRUG) has strongly opposed the demolition of International House as part of Lambeth council’s plans to redevelop what it describes as “The Rec Quarter”.
The leading architect Kate Macintosh, partner of the late George Finch who designed the Rec and International House as a single entity, has also spoken out against demolition.
BRUG welcomed council proposals for affordable homes on the nearby Pop Brixton site and its “aspirations for inclusiveness and sustainability”.
This, together with Lambeth’s intention to invest a significant amount of money in the Rec, “shows that they recognise how important the Rec is within the community,” BRUG said.
The Rec – but not International House – was listed as being architecturally and culturally important in 2016 following plans to demolish it revealed in 2012.
“The Pop Brixton site is a separate entity opposite the Rec and would be suitable for future homes to be developed there,” BRUG said.
“Including International House as part of their proposals is an entirely new development and could impact upon the Rec in dramatic ways as they [the council] have suggested that International House could be up for demolition and included in the regeneration plans.”
BRUG said it strongly opposes the demolition of International House “which is part and parcel of the whole Brixton Rec complex”.
The group wants to see it kept as “a community asset to be refurbished to provide multi-purpose use for offices and workspaces within central Brixton as well as community projects to benefit local people.”
International House is currently occupied by 3Space, which provides office and other space for both commercial and community organisations, including Brixton Media, the community interest company that publishes the Brixton Blog.
BRUG said there was no mention in Lambeth council’s proposals of how the sale and demolition of International House would impact Rec users who come to classes and activities for their physical, mental health and social purposes.
“The current pandemic has shown how people have been so badly affected when they’re unable to meet and mingle in a safe environment.
“Demolition could further disrupt the provision of services within the Rec over a prolonged period of time.”
BRUG said that the whole development process is being rushed through at the worst possible time in the middle of a global pandemic.
It said the deadline for bidders’ expressions of interest is mid-May this year and the selection of plans is scheduled for September.
“There will be no time to have meaningful consultations while we are all restricted by the lockdown requirements,” BRUG said, adding that there would be little opportunity for open scrutiny of bids or time to select appropriate socially responsible bidders.
BRUG also expressed concern that the council is linking two separate sites – those of Pop Brixton and International House – without any consultation.
“Will Lambeth council ignore their own planning requirements as they did when they granted planning permission for the Hondo tower (which will adjoin and tower over any development on the Pop Brixton and International House sites.
BRUG said it is asking the council to consider the benefits of refurbishing International House and using it as an opportunity to improve the whole Brixton Rec complex by integrating disabled access, energy use strategy and shared community benefits.
“BRUG cannot support these Lambeth council proposals,” group chair David Duncan said.
“Brixton Recreation Centre should be at the heart of the proposals – to minimise harm to the environment and promote benefits for the community by maintaining International House as a community asset.”
Matthew Bennett, Lambeth council cabinet member for planning, investment and new homes, has said that the project will provide 240 new homes, including 50 per cent affordable housing and around 80 new council homes at a time when thousands of Brixton residents are desperately in need of social housing.
It would also feature a new permanent space for Brixton’s businesses, including 20 per cent affordable workspace “so that we secure more good local jobs at a time when unemployment in Brixton has more than doubled”.
Cllr Bennett said: “We have an opportunity to expand Brixton’s Rec Quarter, using council land to benefit and meet the needs of local people.
“We think this conversation needs to start by looking at local need, and the hopes and aspirations of Brixton’s community, rather than bricks and mortar.
“I really look forward to a genuinely inclusive conversation over the coming months and years.”
A petition against demolition has been signed by moe than 200 people.