Suffolk town scraps ‘divisive’ community centre proposals

The site off Brook Lane, Framlingham, where proposals had been put forward for a community centre Pi

The site off Brook Lane, Framlingham, where proposals had been put forward for a community centre Picture: ANDREW HIRST - Credit: Archant

A Suffolk town’s latest community centre proposals have been scrapped after fears were raised they had become too divisive and costly.

Framlingham Town Council voted last night to proceed with neither of the available two options, following a lengthy public debate.

It is thought to be Framlingham’s sixth failed community centre project in the past 20 years.

A site between Brook Lane and Vyces Road had been the council’s initial favoured option as it was available at a peppercorn rent from the Mills Charity.

However people living nearby had complained about traffic, lack of parking, and noise from events.

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The opposition at a public meeting in October saw a working group set up to investigate ways to resolve the Brook Lane concerns, while also considering other locations.

It led to amended plans for Brook Lane and a second option at Framlingham Sports Club in Badingham Road.

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At last night’s meeting, however, it emerged both options still faced serious problems.

The opposition to Brook Lane remained vociferous. Speakers described it as a “monstrosity” which would “blight” the area - and claimed there were too many uncertainties to proceed. Others said the site was too small to allow for expansion.

The sports club also faced uncertainties over Sports England’s support and land needed to improve access.

Councillors heard the site was valued at £100,000 but the club wanted £300,000 to fund a 3G pitch. Several said they were uneasy about spending an “inflated sum on subsidising another organisation”.

The total costs of either option were estimated at £1.8-2.5m, which was hoped to be partially funded through an application for Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL), which is generated from housing developments.

Several people said the availability of CIL was an opportunity which may not arise again.

Councillor Philip Collins said: “I feel if we delay this much longer then another whole generation will miss out.”

Simon Garrett added that “no decision will every seem to be entirely the right decision” but “we have to make the decision based on the information we have”.

Others said it was better to make no decision than rush into the wrong one.

Spadge Hopkins said: “Unless we are careful we are going to split this community in two.”

Council chairman Gary Kitching questioned whether it was sensible to spend such sums on one building, when there were other pressing issues.

He also raised concerns about progressing a project which had proved so divisive. “I think if councillors support the project it would cause a significant split in the community,” he added. “Our job is to promote community coherence, not undermine it.”

Councillors voted in favour of progressing neither option by a majority of six to five.

Any further plans will be started from scratch.

Separate proposals to demolish and rebuild St Michael’s Church Rooms remain on the table and will form part of the council’s bid for CIL.

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