20 Mar 2017
A first planning application for a new community centre for residents on the Howard Estate in Bury St Edmunds will be submitted soon.
Most of the costs of the new centre, which will cost over £1 million, will be paid for via proposed new housing development in St Olaves Road. The new community centre will be built on part of the site of the former Howard Primary School. After it is completed, the old centre will be demolished to make way for housing.
The original Newbury Community Centre was built close to 50 years ago and is coming to the end of its life. The estate has also grown and is in need of a larger, new purpose built modern facility to support its local community.
St Edmundsbury Borough Council, which owns the existing centre, believes that community centres should be owned by the community that they serve. The Newbury Community Association (NCA) which runs the building will take on ownership of the new centre.
Over the past two to three years, a project group made up of the NCA, Havebury Housing Partnership, the Borough and County Councils and an independent chair, has been working on a project to build a new centre which the NCA will then own. Rees Pryer Architects in Bury St Edmunds were appointed to work on the project.
The designs for the application have been shaped by a community consultation in 2015 which asked residents about what activities they would like to see take place in their centre, and then two more public consultations last year which refined the layout and the location within the new housing development.
Now Suffolk County Council and St Edmundsbury Borough Council are to submit an outline planning application for the new centre and the housing later in the spring. If approved, a developer will then be appointed for the centre and housing development and a more detailed planning application would then be submitted. Permission is being sought from Central Government to approve the disposal of the school site.
Cllr Robert Everitt, St Edmundsbury Borough Council’s Cabinet Member for Families and Communities, said: “Our whole Families and Communities strategy is about helping communities to help themselves. The project team has engaged with the community, asked them what they would like to see and use their community centre for and reshaped the proposals based on their views. I now look forward to these proposals being discussed in more detail when they come before our Development Control Committee.”
Cllr Paul Hopfensperger who, as one of the ward councillors for the St Olaves Ward, has been heavily involved in the project since its inception said: “I am delighted for the community on the Howard Estate which I represent and I am proud to have worked with so many of my residents on this exciting and hugely important project. The old Newbury Community Centre is well used by my local residents for everything from birthday parties and wedding receptions, through to social events for the over 60s, exercise classes, slimming clubs and lots, lots more. A new centre is much needed to serve both the young and the old as well as families on the estate and I for one, cannot wait to celebrate the official opening.”
Ivy Goodman on behalf of the NCA said: “It has taken a lot of hard work from everyone involved to get to this stage but the residents of the Howard Estate are much closer to getting a brand new community centre which will meet local needs and that in itself is a real success story. This is a centre designed by the community for the community and I hope that it is something that local residents will use regularly to come together and enjoy themselves for whatever the social occasion.”