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Irish Centre gets the green light for £18 million overhaul

Charity says ‘beautiful’ new building will help protect its future as demand for services grows

25 September, 2020

How the new centre will look

THE London Irish Centre has won planning consent for an £18million overhaul, which the long-running charity says will safeguard its future.

Pop singer Ed Sheeran and X-Factor host Dermot O’Leary are among the supporters of the project which will see its different shaped buildings on its corner site in Camden  Town joined together as one.

The revamp, which has £1million financial support from the Irish government, will see a new multi-function venue space, suitable for concerts and special events, a well-being centre and a cafe. A new entrance will be created in Murray Street, switching from the current staircase entrance in Camden Square.

The centre first opened in 1955 to help to settle people who had come from Ireland for work, but more recently has found itself in the front line of providing emergency food relief during the Covid crisis.

Sean Kennedy, chairman of the centre’s development committee, told a council planning meeting on Thursday: “This development is vital for the charity.

“Over the past 10 years, we have seen a dramatic increase in demand for our welfare, community and cultural services as a result of government cutbacks, increased poverty and demands for a creative cultural programme, and now Covid.”

Ed Sheehan backed the fund-raising campaign

He said the current building was “severely compromised” and “dilapidated”, and “event management [was] difficult”. Some neighbours raised concerns that events at the Irish Centre already led to late-night noise from people coming out, and this problem would worsen if the centre was allowed to expand.

John Withington, who lives nearby, told the meeting: “The Irish Centre has recruited lots of people to speak in favour of this proposal and to endorse it, people like Ed Sheeran, the Irish ambassador, the Mayor of London – what they all have in common is that they won’t have to live with the consequences of any expansion.

“Another thing they have in common is that none of them has sought my views or as far as I’m aware the views of my neighbours.”

He added: “The problem we have is, for a long time now, we’ve had hundreds of people disgorged late at night into what should be a quiet residential area. “And we shouldn’t have to put up with any more people being disgorged into this area.”

But Mr Kennedy said there would be an “event management plan” drawn up with feedback from residents and monitored by the council. “We are and we will be a good and responsible neighbour,” he said.

Security will be asked to make sure people leave quietly.

“Our goals remain the same: a beautiful community and cultural centre that Camden and the Irish community will be proud of,” said Mr Kennedy.

Councillors later voted 8-0 in favour of granting planning permission. Work is due to be finished by 2023.

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