Community radio could return to market town as momentum builds for new ‘social hub’
A revamped radio station could be on the cards for Framlingham after plans to explore an ambitious vision for a new community hub were agreed in principle by the town council.
The £3.5million proposal, presented by Nick Corke from local charity Hour Community, is for a brand new community centre and park and ride service covering six acres – agreed with the land owner on the condition a small housing development may be built nearby.
The breakthrough follows almost three decades years of failed attempts in the town to agree on a site for a new community centre.
At the full council meeting on Thursday night, the councillors agreed to “further explore the principles with Hour Community,” without committing to any specific funding arrangements.
Mr Corke clarified that his intention was not to get unanimous approval to proceed – but rather to confirm the council did not object to the idea before any further negotiations are had.
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He said the project would cost in the region of £3.5million, which he hoped could be drawn from the district council’s Community Infrastructure Levy funding (CIL).
The community hub, which would be situated on land adjacent to Thomas Mills High School, would consist of a large hall attached to several smaller units.
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Mr Corke said, in order to make the project financially viable, the units could be used to house local businesses which would generate revenue on the site.
This could include a revamped community radio station and recording studio – with many companies already expressing an interest.
Mr Corke proposed a large car park could be built on the same site - facilitating a “community-run park and ride” service for people working in the town.
He said he hoped this would relieve the pressure on limited parking space in the town centre.
It would also incorporate a coach park, designed to tackle congestion at peak times outside Thomas Mills High School.
Mr Corke said the school was in “full favour of the project,” which would see coaches drop the children off on the new site – just a stone’s throw from Thomas Mills.
As it stands, the six acre site earmarked for the community hub and car park would be part of a wider 36 acre plot.
Mr Corke said that, in order to get permission to use the land, it is likely negotiators would have to agree to a small housing development on the same site.
However he stressed that this would only incorporate a “windfall site” of roughly a dozen homes – which pales in comparison to recent large-scale developments that have stirred controversy in the town.
He added that he had already approached the landowner, who was “quite happy and open-minded to do a deal”.
The proposal did draw some tentative objections from the councillors – with some arguing they could not agree in principle to just one project while potentially neglecting other ideas.
Councillor John Jones, finance chairman, said: “My major concern is that this will only be successful if it is funded by CIL and if we agree to a housing development. There is no denying that.
“It is also dependent on the land owner granting us four to six acres free of charge.
“For us to go forward and give you an agreement in principle, we would have to accept all the criteria.
“It would be wrong to be seen favouring one [project] over the others.”
However a unanimous decision was reached when it was clarified the councillors only need agree to explore the proposals in more detail – and not necessarily approve the project in its entirety.
Responding to Mr Jones’ points, Mr Corke said the scheme still had to be “fully costed” and “we are never going to get 100% of what we want”.
“I think the time has come,” he said.
“We have put a lot of time and energy into this because basically we believe in something here.
“We have spent too long in this town looking for a good community centre. We can deliver something on this piece of land. There are so many positives to this.”
Councillor Spadge Hopkins added: “What’s to lose? It’s not going to cost us any money [at this stage].”
The site may also incorporate a new sheltered housing plot, as well as industrial buildings – but this would be at the discretion of the landowner.
Mr Corke said the community hub could solve “a number of problems that need addressing,” including car parking issues in the town centre, suitable accommodation for the over 60s, and issues with twice daily traffic congestion outside Thomas Mills.
“The benefit of it is it’s run by a charity – any profits made go back into the town,” he said.
“If everybody is willing, it can be done. It is as simple as that.”
Mr Corke added that he would be very keen to hear from anybody living in the town who would like to share their views on the project.
In the meantime, he said he is looking forward to working with the council as the plans progress.