U-turn joy: Campaigners delighted as threat of sudden closure disappears

Lucy Meyers collects signatures from concerned residents in Great Dunmow

Lucy Myers collected signatures from people in Great Dunmow - Credit: Celia Bartlett Photography

Campaigners are delighted that a plan which would have suddenly closed a Dunmow day centre and its car park from Monday (June 21) is no longer going ahead.

Uttlesford District Council had put forward the Rowena Davey Centre car park on Chequers Lane as a site for a drive-through and walk-in Covid test centre to Essex County Council for the Department of Health and Social Care.

Chequers Lane car park, Great Dunmow

Chequers Lane car park in Great Dunmow - Credit: Celia Bartlett Photography

But the day centre's chair of trustees and the manager only days ago learned they were being asked "not to reopen" for six months while the testing went ahead in the car park. It is understood that officials feared centre users would be too close to the testing area if they used one of the entrance points.

The centre has had some groups back for some time, and a blood testing clinic with appointments booked weeks in advance. They also have a number of other groups poised to return.

Lucy Myers, whose U3A group uses the centre, gathered around 150 signatures against the proposal in under three hours on Tuesday morning.

Lucy Myers with her petition outside the Rowena Davey Centre in Great Dunmow

Lucy Myers with her petition outside the Rowena Davey Centre in Great Dunmow - Credit: Celia Bartlett Photography

Lucy Myers petition about the closure of the day centre with Pat Powell

Lucy Myers and Pat Powell with the petition in Great Dunmow - Credit: Celia Bartlett Photography

Group outside the Rowena Davey Centre in Great Dunmow

Dunmow mayor Patrick Lavelle with U3A group coordinator Rosemary Jensen, group leader Maureen Best, day centre chair of trustees Colin Bradley and petition coordinator Lucy Myers outside the day centre - Credit: Celia Bartlett

Rosemary Jensen collects signatures and listen to the concerns of Dunmow residents

Rosemary Jensen collects signatures and listen to the concerns of Dunmow residents - Credit: Celia Bartlett Photography

Lucy Myers addresses the queueing customers at Dunmow market

Lucy Myers addresses the queueing customers at the market, explaining about the planned six month closure of the carpark and day centre in Great Dunmow - Credit: Celia Bartlett Photography


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Town mayor Patrick Lavelle said he was pleased that Dunmow was getting a Covid rapid testing centre but "disappointed that a decision of such magnitude has been taken without consultation with the town council".

The car park is used as a school drop-off and pick-up, by people attending the doctor's surgery, and going to the market.

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On Tuesday afternoon an official ruled the car park's surface was unsuitable for the portable buildings.

Lucy said she was "completely delighted" that so many people had got involved, from signing the petition to emailing the council's chief executive, and the decision had been changed.

Day centre manager Willie Fraser said he was relieved at the outcome but disappointed it had caused chaos.

An Uttlesford District Council spokesperson said: "“The use of the Chequers Lane car park as a testing station was always subject to a satisfactory site visit and evaluation by the Department of Health and Social Care and Essex Public Health.

"The site visit has now taken place and they have decided that the car park is not suitable as it is on a slope.”




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