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Protest outside Medway Council meeting

By KentOnline reporter

by Dean Kilpatrick, local democracy reporter

Nearly 100 campaigners assembled outside a Medway Council meeting this evening to urge councillors to reconsider two controversial plans to close community assets.

Residents chanted and held banners aloft outside St George’s Centre, Chatham, in protest of the forthcoming closure of Deangate Ridge golf club in Hoo, a decision made by cabinet members earlier this month.

More than 3,700 people have signed a petition showing their support for sports venue, with some of those now having made their feelings clear ahead of a council meeting for the second time in three weeks.

Some of the protesters
Some of the protesters

Meanwhile, volunteers and users of the Royal Voluntary Service, a charity which helps older people across Britain, passionately chanted “save our centre” amid Medway Council’s plans to cut its £35,000 of funding.

George Crozer, chairman of High Halstow Parish Council and leading campaigner to save Deangate Ridge, said: “We’re just here to remind the council that we’re not going away.

“Medway Council has, very quickly, made the decision to close Deangate Ridge. For most people, it’s not about the golf course – it’s because it’s a communtity facility and they’ve not given us the chance to have our say.”

The decision to close the golf course will be looked at during a special meeting of the overview and scrutiny committee on March 12.

However, unless there is a major u-turn, Deangate will formally close its doors to the public on March 31.

Medway Council says the council-owned complex has made a loss of more than £1.5m over the last seven years, with a declining membership of 282 people.

The scene of the protest
The scene of the protest

Speaking after the decision was made on February 6, Cllr Howard Doe, portfolio holder for community services said: “Medway Council has owned the golf course for more than 40 years and so we did not take this decision lightly.

“However, it’s just not financially viable to keep the golf course open, especially due to continued financial pressures on council finances."

The council insists no decision has been made about the potential future use of the site, adding the other facilities at the sport complex will remain open.

Volunteers and users of the Royal Voluntary Service, which helps older people stay independent at home, were also out in force.

Committee member Jean Tomkies, who has volunteered since the centre’s inception eight years ago, said cutting funding would be more expensive in the long run.

She said: “They are trying to close us down and we don’t want it to close. If it goes, it’s going to leave a lot of vulnerable people in vulnerable situations.

“Cutting £35,000 for this centre is going to cost more money through health problems and other issues caused by loneliness and such.”

However, the protest seemed to pay off as the council agreed to provide another six months of funding to the Royal Volunteer Service.

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