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GORDON HENDERSON MP

FOR SITTINGBOURNE & SHEPPEY

Thank You Letter - Phoenix House

Dear Mr Henderson,

I am writing to you on behalf of the Trustees of Swale Community Centres (SCC) and the community groups that use Phoenix House to thank you for the support you have given regarding Kent County Council’s (KCC) proposed termination of our lease for Phoenix House and grant supporting its operation.

We have now been informed by KCC that the lease and grant will be extended for a further 12 months until February 2014. We understand that this change of heart was prompted by the strong objections raised by our councillors and by yourself in your letter to Mr. Paul Carter, that were in line with the general public reaction when the original decision was announced. We now have a petition signed by over 1200 residents of Sittingbourne and surrounding areas, many who are Phoenix House users, requesting the continuation of community provision in the town centre.

The extension of the lease and grant provide a valuable breathing space during which the numerous user groups, including vulnerable members of our community, can continue to use Phoenix House while we plan for future change. We have already started to work with Swale Borough Council (SBC) and KCC with the aim of ensuring that good community facilities are provided as part of the Sittingbourne Regeneration Plan. This work must cover both the long-term provision for community groups and the temporary arrangements during the transitional period when Phoenix House is required for redevelopment. We will greatly value your continued support for this provision as the plans are matured.

We still believe that the most efficient arrangement would be for SCC to continue to occupy Phoenix House until the time it is required by the Spirit of Sittingbourne consortium, minimizing the period of disruption for our groups. The building is well suited to the needs of the users and has been extensively upgraded by SCC over the years with that aim, for example with the fitting of wheelchair ramps and toilets adapted for access and use by the disabled. The KCC plan to re-occupy the building for what could be a significant period before it is needed for re- development, will not make the best use of the facility and force user groups into less suitable accommodation for longer than should be necessary.

In our discussions with KCC we will press for further re-consideration of the plan to re-occupy Phoenix House and would urge you to add your support to our argument that is also supported by so many local people.

Many thanks again for your help.

Yours sincerely,

Dr Rob Fenton

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