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Ashford Borough Council accused of abandoning buildings to flatten them later

By Caitlin Webb, local democracy reporter

A local authority is abandoning community buildings so there is an excuse to eventually demolish them, according to a Labour councillor.

Cllr Dara Farrell (Lab) made these claims as Ashford Borough Council (ABC) announced plans to flatten a former community centre to make way for more car parking in the centre of town.

The Joe Fagg Pop Inn centre was run by Age UK, who welcomed people for almost 35 years with entertainment, freshly cooked food and a tuck shop for the elderly.

Age UK's 'temporary' lease for the centre lasted almost 35 years
Age UK's 'temporary' lease for the centre lasted almost 35 years

Cllr Farrell shared his concerns about the council's track record of getting rid of buildings once it is too late to repair them.

At the planning committee, he said: "This application is reminiscent of the application to demolish the toilets in some ways and not just because both are in the Vicarage Lane car park but because both sites were in poor state of repair.

"It is indicative of this council to refuse to repair something only to then knock it down.

"Age UK repeatedly requested the council assisted the repairs to the building, resulting refusal and the building being handed back.

"It is indicative of this council to refuse to repair something only to then knock it down..." Cllr Dara Farrell

"Only then did the state of the building become an issue, 24 years later."

The county councillor added he had been contacted by the charity that their new home in Stanhope Road is not ideal as it is far from the town centre.

However the portfolio holder for corporate property, Cllr Graham Galpin, said the charity stayed in the building without the local authority's position.

Age UK was given temporary planning permission for the building in 1984, and it was renewed in 1989 with the condition that once the lease ran out the building would be demolished.

The well known figure of Joe Fagg plays a trombone at Children s Day in 1964
The well known figure of Joe Fagg plays a trombone at Children s Day in 1964

Cllr Galpin added the local authority discovered the level of asbestos was "considerable" so the building had to be vacated.

He said: "We have worked hard with Age UK to see how we could make this work in a better way.

"It was clear more than 50% of the building has been stripped (and it looks like illegally) of asbestos covering the walls.

"We measured the asbestos situation in that area and it had to be sealed as it was considerable."

Despite this move, Mr Fagg's name has been transferred to the new Age UK facility.

The so-called 'Mr Ashford' was a popular local businessmen who provided coach tours for older Ashford residents and supplied the vehicles and drivers for the town's carnival floats.

Joe Fagg, the former Ashford Football Club manager was awarded an MBE in the 1980s.

He was also captain of the golf club, chairman of the local gala day committee and a Rotarian.

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