Hopes for community centre revived

A SUFFOLK town's long-held hopes of a new community centre could be resurrected after a housing developer offered to give �200,000 towards the project.

Richard Smith

A SUFFOLK town's long-held hopes of a new community centre could be resurrected after a housing developer offered to give �200,000 towards the project.

Hopkins Homes and A B Agri Ltd want to build a major new development at the former railway station in Framlingham and they have been negotiating with Suffolk Coastal District Council about extra benefits for the town.

The move brings hope for a new community centre for the town after a previous project collapsed in 2007 because of a dispute over land available for the project - and �1.1million raised in grants and donations had to be returned.

The new scheme is for 140 houses and commercial buildings on three sites fronting Station Road.

The main site is on the west side of Station Road and is known as the Bibbys and Walnes Seeds area, used to accommodate the railway terminus, sidings, engine shed and a brickworks.

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This is the proposed location for the houses which include 47 low-cost homes. However, 22 affordable homes are already planned for the town's Castle Brooks development and the total of 69 in Framlingham would be a major increase.

Therefore planning officers think it is appropriate that the developers take out five affordable homes and give �200,000 for a community centre.

This would help to address issues raised by Framlingham Town Council, which has objected to the planning application.

Town councillors want a financial contribution towards a community centre if the scheme does go ahead and they said: “The Framlingham and District Development Trust is currently in the early stages of actively pursuing the possibility of providing a new venue for the community.

“It is considered that the addition of 140 new homes in Framlingham, plus another 65 in Brook Lane, will considerably augment the need to provide a dedicated community facility, which the town notoriously lacks, and that a significant contribution from Hopkins Homes is wholly justified.”

Objectors to the scheme are worried that Framlingham's population will increase by 10%, putting extra demand on health and education services, sewers and sewage treatment facilities.

There is also concern that Framlingham's industrial heritage could be lost without trace unless some of the old station buildings can be incorporated into the scheme.

The Framlingham and District Local History and Preservation Society wants some of the 19th Century buildings - particularly the “black granary” - retained.

The district council is recommended to approve the scheme when the development control sub- committee meets on January 7.

THE residue from a “failed” �1million bid to build a new community centre in a market town has been handed over to a local charity.

A public meeting at Framlingham decided to hand the remaining �11,500 to the Mills Charity to be held for use by any future plan to build a similar centre.

The town's community centre project began as a millennium idea and captured the imagination of a large number of local people.

The idea of using the site of the church's St Michael's Rooms was originally put forward by a previous vicar, Rev Richard Willcock.

However, the relationship between the parochial church council and the community centre project deteriorated over the years and reached an impasse over the land issue.

The project collapsed in August 2007 following a dispute between the trustees and the Diocese of St Edmundsbury and Ipswich over land available for the new building and its car park.

All the money had been raised or pledged, including �300,000 from European funds, and the collapse was described by local people as a “tragedy” and a “disaster”.

The trustees have spent the past 15 months attempting to return more than �100,000 to local donors and fund-raisers.

However, �11,500 remained - partly as a result of people declining to take the money back.

Nearly 40 people attended a special meeting held in the Scout and Guide HQ, Framlingham.

Vic Stanbrook, chairman of the Framlingham Community Centre Trust, said a variety of avenues had been considered for the disposal of the funds remaining. A number of worthy causes could not be considered due to the terms of the trust and the trustees had unanimously agreed that an approach to the Mills Charity was the best option.

“The Mills Charity had its terms modified in 1997 and now includes a statement that is nearly identical to the aims of the Community Centre Trust. After an informal approach, the Mills Charity trustees have agreed to take the �11,500 remaining as a ring-fenced donation for use with a future community centre type project in the town,” he said.

Mr Stanbrook said the presentation and adoption of the trustees' final report and accounts had ended what had been “a very difficult and frustrating six years of effort by the trustees and their many supporters”.

A vote of thanks to the trustees was proposed from the floor and strongly supported by the meeting. Records of the work done will be retained for the use of any new project in the future.