Kids Company fights to stay in present site

An innovative approach to helping neglected children that won the support of MPs could close because of 14 complaints from the neighbours.

Former voluntary sector minister Paul Boateng was among those who backed Kids Company, a drop-in centre for 180 deprived children in Camberwell, in south London.

But the centre is under threat following the complaints to Southwark Council about noise levels between the hours of 4 and 6pm.

One resident claimed the noise had stopped them getting a job.

Southwark Council refused retrospective planning permission on the Railtrack-owned site, which leaves the charity with nine months to find new premises.

However, Kids Company, whose hands-on approach is being assessed for effectiveness by independent charity Crime Concern on behalf of the Government, is appealing against the council's decision and is taking the case to the High Court.

Kids Company founder Camila Batmanghelidjh, who set up the centre six years ago, said: "It's almost as if children don't have the right to live and be in a place and do the things that children do.

"The court case is going to cost us but it's the principle. I'm not prepared for those children to feel like trash and just be removed. This is the children's second home - we're not leaving."

A Southwark Council spokeswoman said: "There is a noise nuisance that is detrimental to the community. But she added the idea of the scheme was good and they would try to find a "more suitable location.

The children are holding a concert in June to raise funds for the court proceedings, which the charity hopes will be supported by regular donors including Sainsbury's, the Lottery, Deutsche Bank and Credit Suisse First Boston.

The majority of the 180 children using Kids Company have had very difficult childhoods, says Batmanghelidjh. Many are often left without basic necessities.

Kids Company raises approximately £1.5 million a year, which goes towards providing needy young people with education, support, food and clothing as well as paying for the 70 staff.

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