July 24 2014 Latest news:
West Suffolk senior reporter
Wednesday, June 4, 2014
An “important start” has been made in achieving a new community centre on a Bury St Edmunds estate.
A “memorandum of understanding” between St Edmundsbury Borough Council, the Newbury Community Association (NCA) and Havebury Housing Partnership is set to be signed which marks a pledge by the council to maintain the existing centre on the Howard estate while undertaking a feasibility study to provide a new one.
The council has been seeking to transfer the ownership of the Newbury Community Centre over to the community, but the NCA –which runs the facility – has been reluctant to take the building on in its current state of repair.
Borough councillor Paul Hopfensperger, who represents the St Olaves ward, said the agreement –which marks a turning point in the long-running saga – was “very exciting” for people living on the estate.
Ernie Broom, a trustee of the NCA, said he was “really pleased” this pledge would be in writing, but there was still a fair way to go to actually achieve the new centre.
He said Bury St Edmunds MP David Ruffley – who called a meeting with the council – had listened to him and in turn so had the council.
Mr Ruffley said: “The Howard estate is a sizeable part of the town in terms of population.
“It’s always had a great community spirit and they like doing things, but really they need a 21st century building.”
He added he would like to have the new centre in place before 2019, but the agreement was an “important start”.
Councillor Sara Mildmay-White, cabinet member for health and communities at the borough council, said the authority looked forward to working with residents and partners over the coming months on the next phase of “this ambitious project”.
Mr Broom said the NCA’s preferred site for the new building would be the current location of Howard Community Primary School, if the primary school moves to the middle school site, and he is also keen to see a doctors’ surgery element at the new centre.
The new community centre could be funded by the sale of the current site and also through a possible contribution from the developer behind plans for about 900 homes nearby, Mr Broom added.