£6m community centre project within new development at Houghton Regis set to progress

Business plan needs to be finalised for building that will serve new and existing residents

By Euan Duncan
Thursday, 24th March 2022, 12:20 pm
Updated Thursday, 24th March 2022, 12:22 pm

Plans for a £6m community centre on a housing development in Houghton Regis are a step nearer, subject to a suitable business plan being drawn up.

The building on 1.2 acres of land is part of the Bidwell West site development, with more than 500 homes occupied and others under construction.

Capital costs for the project are estimated to be £5.5 to £6m prior to design and surveyor review, according to a report to Central Bedfordshire Council's corporate resources overview and scrutiny committee on March 10.

Central Beds Council HQ

"These costs anticipate one floor of community centre space, with a minimum one main hall and two minor halls, four conference or meeting rooms and a café, as well as a second floor of supported living accommodation," said the report.

"Houghton Regis community development charity (HRCDC) is holding talks with a national housing association on the second floor element of the project.

"The council has a commitment enabling Section 106 resources to be deployed for a community hall on this land, which is being transferred by the consortium of developers to CBC.

"HRCDC has presented a scheme to the local authority for a multi-purpose building to meet the needs of new residents and the wider population of the town.

"CBC has backed community buildings previously by agreeing in principle to release Section 106 contributions, subject to evidence of full funding for the project being submitted."

A partnership of local churches and other stakeholders has an ambition to "help in the development of Bidwell West (HRN2) as a healthy, vibrant, thriving and inclusive community", explained the report.

"The charity has a board reflecting the denominations involved and a development group of members with considerable experience and expertise in community facilities.

"It's aiming to provide a sustainable community building which will be a hub to residents and a heart for community activity, including supported housing and health facilities.

"A separate company is envisaged for the management of the premises, once it opens. A decision from CBC's executive would clarify the basis on which the charity can proceed with fundraising, partnerships and consolidation of its business plan."

The Section 106 developer contributions would be about 20 per cent of the total cost, with other funding anticipated from a number of sources, added the report.

Conservative Sandy councillor and executive member for health, wellbeing and communities Tracey Stock said: "This project has been a long time in the making. I'm really pleased about this.

"It's to seek support in the allocation of the land and the S106 funding. The group is completely inclusive."

CBC's community engagement manager Sarah Hughes said: "It's to confirm the commitment this particular charity has to the town.

"Efforts are being made to engage with those in the new community and with residents already in the town to ensure it's a hall to serve both communities.

"It's conditional that the business plan is fully costed before any monies are released."

Liberal Democrat Houghton Hall councillor Susan Goodchild said: "We don't want to hear references to the 'old part of Houghton Regis'. It's so important wherever possible we're involved together."

Conservative Ampthill councillor Paul Duckett, who chairs the committee, said: "It's an exciting project and a much needed amenity in that new part of Houghton Regis."

Councillors agreed to recommend to the executive to release the land and allocate the Section 106 funding, subject to a fully costed business plan being received.