5:20pm Friday 24th January 2014
By Bruce Thain
Anger has greeted a threat to the future of a community cafe in a Harrow park.
The Old Bowls Cafe in Kenton Park has been threatened with closure by Harrow Borough Council, which has asked for the Friends of the Kenton Park Rec group to tender for the lease of the building.
Eugene Callinan has worked for the past five years and spent his own money to restore the dilapidated bowls club house into a cafe that hosts a number of community groups.
The 53-year-old said: “I have put so much work into this place and it's all for the community. I haven’t done it for the money and it’s just devastating that it might come to an end.
“Since we opened in August we have had such a great response from the community who can enjoy the whole park now.
“This place was a mess when I came here and we brought it back to life and we want to stay. It would be so disappointing if we had to close."
A campaign has now started among the community groups that use the building to save the cafe and the cause has been backed by Harrow Labour councillors Keith Ferry and Sue Anderson.
Cllr Ferry said: “Under our administration we gave Eugene the chance to take care of the park and the building.
“The community has built this and the council should be supporting the community to help run it.
“The model for Kenton Rec is how parks should be run. The council is getting less and less money to look after parks and we need to the community to join together and help maintain them."
Cllr Anderson said: "I've been visiting Kenton Rec, my local park, for over twenty years and have been thrilled to see the improvements since the friends group has been working in partnership with the council.
“The cafe has been run on a non-commercial basis with any money raised being ploughed back into the rec.”
A spokesman for Harrow council said: “We are extremely grateful to Eugene for the hard work that he and the Friends of Kenton Recreation Ground put into refurbishing this building.
“When this work was first done, the objective was to create a meeting point for the group and public to use on an ad-hoc basis.
“Last year the friends group told us that they wished to use the site permanently as a café.
“We informed them then that the normal process would be to open out this opportunity to anyone and that this arrangement would be beneficial to whoever holds the lease as it formalises the use of the building and provides security of tenure.
“We would welcome any application from the friends group.”
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