Houghton Regis Community Centre to Remain Dual Use For Now.




A debate at Central Bedfordshire Council (CBC) took place today on the future use of Houghton Regis Community Centre at Bedford Square. Councillors voted in favour of dual-use of the community centre until Central Bedfordshire College can find an alternative venue later this year.

The Community Centre was closed to many community groups last summer without consultation. The space was reallocated for educational use.

The consultation about the future of Houghton Regis Community Centre was published on the CBC’s website on 13th October 2021 and can be downloaded here through Houghton Regis News Desk. A covering report is also available to download.

The consultation ran from 13th October 2021 to 8th December 2021. Local residents were encouraged to comment on the proposal by completing a short online survey.

In total, 130 responses were received for the consultation questionnaire: 

How far do you agree or disagree with the proposal that the community centre will be used by a single provider, Monday to Friday 8am-5pm, term time only, with the centre available to others to hire outside of these hours? - 48% of respondents disagreed or strongly disagreed with the proposal. 44% of respondents agreed or strongly agreed with the proposal.

How far do you agree or disagree with the proposal that the community centre will be used by a single provider (the college) term time only monday-friday 8-5, and available for community use outside of this time for the community? - Those that have never used the community centre were more likely to support the proposal (59%). Those that have attended the community centre as a user of services, classes, courses or activities were least likely to support the proposal (35%).

Further analysis is available in the report, should you wish to download it.

Before the debate proper, Liberal Democrat Houghton Regis Town Councillor, Cllr Ray Morgan (Houghton Hall ward) spoke at the very start of the meeting stating how the Community Centre could be so much more to the community if properly promoted and priced. Listen to Ray in full:



Liberal Democrat CBC Cllr Susan Goodchild (Houghton Hall ward) relayed messages about the Community Centre to this Corporate Services Committee. The statement was critical of CBC's survey methodology as "being unsound". The criticism extended to other facilities as being unsafe, not practical for buses and so on. You can listen to that statement here:



Independent CBC Cllr Pat Hamill (Tithe Farm ward), then addressed the committee. He was critical of the consultation timing which was after the CC was closed. He told them they had the whole of Central Bedfordshire to look for a suitable educational building. Listen to his comments here:



Labour CBC Cllr Toni Ryan (Parkside ward) then spoke of the distrust this has caused in the community. In a public statement after the debate Cllr Ryan wrote, “I still think it's outrageous that the council took away our community hall, and should provide good educational facilities, but it's welcome that the community campaign supported by myself, is leading to concessions. I also sought assurance that the Council will bring forward a 5 year plan that accommodates the needs who use the service and make sure strong contingency plans are in place but also to work with Edward Street to ensure good and joined up working is in place. But also, Central Bedfordshire see good sense and return the centre to the community it serves.”



MAIN DEBATE



CBC Cllr Yvonne Farrell spoke during the main debate from Seat 21. Yvonne appealed for the Community Centre to be handed back to the people of Houghton Regis.

Cllr Susan Goodchild speaks again from Seat 27, saying that cost of running the centre is not an issue, and querying if there was a minimal use threshold for a community centre and pointing out the harm that has been done by the centre's closure, increasing the tension between the community and the Council.

Councillors voted in favour of recommending to Executive the dual use of Bedford Square building as a community centre with educational use until Central Bedfordshire College can find an alternative venue later this year.






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