£6m community centre for Houghton Regis moves a step closer

Charity to get land and funding allocation from Bidwell West development Section 106 monies to prepare business plan for community building project

By Euan Duncan, Local Democracy Reporter
Wednesday, 8th June 2022, 12:46 pm

A significant landmark has been achieved in a charity’s plans for a £6m community centre in an area of Houghton Regis.

The development is set to become part of the Bidwell West site and will cater for a variety of uses, Central Bedfordshire Council’s executive heard.

The Houghton Regis community development charity (HRCDC) presented a proposal to the council to develop a multi-purpose and technology-enabled community building, according to a report to the committee.

Central Beds Council

It aims to serve the needs of new residents and the wider community of the town, said the report.

Conservative Sandy councillor Tracey Stock told the executive: “I’ve been aware of the group’s ambition to create a community facility in Houghton Regis since 2017.

“We visited a premises in Finchampstead, which contained a sports hall, a cafe, a children’s centre, a library, and a space for local authority personnel and police officers, with the monies raised led by the baptist church,” she explained.

“The section 106 for Bidwell includes £1m and 1.2 acres of land which will be transferred to Central Beds for a community building. CBC committed to ensure these developer contributions, but not to build the facility.

“The HRCDC has put together a proposal to highlight the ethos and governance of the board. It will be a multi-purpose building, community and health facility, with social prescribing, along with 14 supported living units and accommodation for a staff member.

“This will be an extra much-needed facility in Houghton Regis led by local people. It’s not just a community building, but a sustainable space for remote working, training and planned supportive living.

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“The financial contribution and land allocation will allow the charity to proceed with the project and submit a business plan. The deadline for a fully funded business plan is April 2027 and the spend for the Section 106 is 2030/31.”

Minister at Houghton Regis Baptist Church David Skinner said: “The houses are coming fast and the community is developing as residents move in.

“Our charity’s intention is to support the creation of a healthy, vibrant, thriving and inclusive community in Bidwell West and Houghton Regis.

“We’re excited with the progress, which has exceeded all our expectations. A further public consultation is planned working towards the design stage, with an architect, using ideas from the community.

“We’re serious in our intentions. We’ve received a significant pledge of £250,000 towards the cost recently from a denominational body, and we hope that sets a trend others will follow.”

There were more than 100 responses to a public consultation held locally, said pioneer development and climate community worker Tim Haynes.

The executive unanimously agreed the recommendations, including to approve the proposal in principle, with the allocation and release of the land and Section 106 (developer contributions) funding.

This money is subject to the submission and approval of a costed business and finance plan, which has to show full funding for the project and be submitted to CBC by the end of April 2024.