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Chance to turn a school into a community centre

Thursday, 25th March 2010.

The closure of schools in the town gave Haverhill people a once-in-a-generation chance to work together and create community facilities, the town mayor told a public meeting last night (Wednesday).

Cllr Elaine McManus had called the meeting for groups and individuals to begin their input into the consultation process about what happens to schools buildings made redundant by changes in the education system from three-tier to two-tier.

The meeting was designed to find out if there was any prospect of community groups being able to join together in use of one of the available sites, perhaps under the umbrella of the town council.

Suffolk County Council has made it clear it will only consider bids which fulfil a proven need and have a financially sound business case. The county wants in the end to get full financial return for the sites.

The meeting divided into groups to address a series of topics about whether groups could work together on the same site, what the current provision was like and what a new centre could offer.

A common theme emerged that there was a lack of space available in the town, and town clerk Gordon Mussett urged groups to continue to stress that because the county council did not currrently share that impression.

Castle Hill Middle was seen as the ideal place for a new community centre.

Denise Moulds from the Parkway Community Association said the Parkway estate had been trying for a new community centre for ten years since the old one was burnt down.

Among the groups she said might use it were the University of the Third Age, pensioners associations, the Red Cross and St John Ambulance, Haverhill Townswomen's Guild, and brownies and guides.

Other groups came up with a series of other uses including playgroups, storage and sports, with Haverhill Running Club saying they were still looking for a site for a running track after the one at the Sports Centre was curtailed.

Another common suggestion was a museum for Haverhill, in particular a home for the rapidly-growing Centre for Computing History.

Venues in the town were generally too costly, groups felt, and there was a lack of quality premises near the town centre with parking and access.

Some groups' premises were not up to standard and the costs of improving them were prohibitive. There was also a lack of storage space, a lack of a large meeting place for larger groups, a lack of venues with safe outdoor space for children and a lack of venues with sufficient computer and Internet access.

Cllr Pat Hanlon said his group had highlighted the need to extend day care facilities for the elderly, and special needs provision for children.

Mr Mussett said all the issues raised would be looked at by the town council to see if it was possible to put groups together to work up a scheme.

A bid would need to be entered before the end of the county council's three-month consultation period on June 11.

Haverhill Online News

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