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For hire: £1.3m community ‘hub’ in an old Bethnal Green tramshed for £50 an hour

PUBLISHED: 16:00 29 November 2018 | UPDATED: 11:54 30 November 2018

Mayor cuts ribbon to open Bethnal Green's new �1.3m Tramshed community hub. Picture: Carmen Valino

Mayor cuts ribbon to open Bethnal Green's new �1.3m Tramshed community hub. Picture: Carmen Valino

Carmen Valino

A new £1.3 million community hub to rent space for meetings and activities has been opened in Bethnal Green at the converted Tramshed centre.

Tramshed in Digby Street orginally built to house London trams at the turn of the 20th century. Picture: Carmen ValinoTramshed in Digby Street orginally built to house London trams at the turn of the 20th century. Picture: Carmen Valino

It has space for 200 people with office facilities, lounge, kitchen, storage area and multimedia equipment.

The Tramshed is the second in a raft of hubs planned by Tower Hamlets Council over the next two years which has already run into controversy.

A scheme to convert historic Raine’s House in Wapping into a commercialised hub caused a storm in February over proposed £50-an-hour booking fees and other kitchen facility charges which have priced out pensioners’ social clubs that had been running for more than 40 years.

Tower Hamlets Council has spent £1.2m turning this old tramshed into a community hub. Picture: Carmen ValinoTower Hamlets Council has spent £1.2m turning this old tramshed into a community hub. Picture: Carmen Valino

The first hub opened in Whitechapel last year at Christian Street, off Commercial Road, was largely empty because neighbourhood groups couldn’t afford the charges, critics pointed out.

But the council is pressing ahead with a second hub pencilled in at Bethnal Green and others in Bromley-by-Bow and Limehouse, as well as Wapping.

Mayor John Biggs, who cut the ribbon at yesterday’s Tramshed grand opening in Digby Street, off Roman Road, welcomed “the rich cultural activity taking place”.

TV talent show winner Ina Khan belts out songs for the mayor at the launch of the Tramshed community hub. Picture: Carmen ValinoTV talent show winner Ina Khan belts out songs for the mayor at the launch of the Tramshed community hub. Picture: Carmen Valino

It featured singer Ina Khan who won the Bangla Channel 1 TV station in 2016.

“Facilities for performing are always valuable for new artists,” Ina said. “This hub connects to audiences by providing rehearsal and performance space.”

Commercialising council-owned buildings was part of the mayor’s review when he took office in 2015. The review examined the myriad of different agreements with occupiers and the condition of the buildings.

Tower Hamlets mayor John Biggs chats with neighbours at the opening of the Tramshed hub. Picture: Carmen ValinoTower Hamlets mayor John Biggs chats with neighbours at the opening of the Tramshed hub. Picture: Carmen Valino

He recommended setting up a network of hubs as “a fairer way to allocate space” to community and charity groups at “sustainable rates” to maintain the buildings.

But it didn’t go down well with the pensioners in Wapping running their bingo sessions, tea dances and weekly socials at the 300-year-old Grade II-listed Raine’s House, who have been given notice to quit by January 6 to make way for a new hub.

The Wednesday bingo run by 90-year-old Sheila Cope has been offered Shadwell’s Glamis Hall, but other clubs running socials have so far been offered nothing by the council.

A planning application to convert Raine’s House was rejected by the town hall’s own planning committee in September—despite substantial work already started by contractors.

The council also owns the Chandler building close by which opposition councillors say has more capacity for a ‘hub’ than Raine’s House, which has traditionally run on a free basis like other pensioner facilities such as Millwall’s Friendship Club in Strafford Street.

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