Published: 17:17, 31 May 2019
| Updated: 17:18, 31 May 2019
More than 1,700 residents have now signed a petition to reinstate a community centre in Bockhanger.
The document has been handed to councillors after Ashford Borough Council spent £150,000 demolishing the 50-year-old site last year.
The former Kennington Community Forum claimed the former library in Kennington was purposefully "spiralling in disrepair" to save council money and make way for property development.
The council has denied these claims, adding the demolition of the facility in Bybrook Road was "the sensible option" as repairs would cost too much.
There was also a public consultation about this move but the council received "very little feedback".
The petition, which has enough signatures to spark debate at full council, was presented last night by Cllr Diccon Spain (Lab).
Cllr Spain explained while collecting signatures, he heard stories of the centre being used by children for dance classes and giving lonely elderly people a reason to leave their home.
An elderly retired lady told the Labour councillor how, due to the closure, she is constantly "staring at the four walls of her house".
He said: "That experience of an older person with increasing loneliness, I think we would all agree is not a desirable thing to have occurring.
"But this is a story I have heard time and time again."
He added the former open forum group in Kennington, which was the equivalent of a parish council, claimed the "state of dereliction is in major part a result in the lack of council investment in recent years".
He said: "Many local people were very displeased having felt the facilities had actually been run down over eight to 10 years beforehand.
"The Bockhanger Community Centre did perform a very important function.
"According to the Local Plan, we shouldn't remove facilities of this kind unless what they are providing is duplicated elsewhere, these facilities are not duplicated.
"There are a number of smaller facilities scattered around but a substantial community facility is not available elsewhere."
He also added the local plan details how communal buildings "designed around people" is "fundamental to the creation of strong, vibrant, healthy and sustainable communities".
Cllr Spain advised the council to consider this petition as a matter of "public duty" and not be "overruled" by the council's requirement to "build more and more housing".
The petition is set to be debated in the upcoming months at a full council meeting, the date has not yet been set.