Bidwell Community Building gets CBC Funding approval

  • The Executive Committee of Central Bedfordshire Council (CBC) heard about the scheme for a Houghton Regis Community Building at Bidwell West on Tuesday, 7th June 2022.

The building will be supported by local people for local people and the facility will be led by a faith group that would be inclusive of all communities of faith and no faith, providing a multipurpose and technology enabled community building, incorporating supported housing and health facilities.

Whilst the developers do not have to build the facility they were required to provide £1m of S106 funding, which is handed to CBC for this facility. In turn, CBC does have a commitment to ensure that S106 resources can be effectively deployed for a community hall on the community hall land.

The Houghton Regis Community Development Charity (HRCDC) (Charity no. 1186865) proposes the delivery of the project in six stages:
  1. Through the employment of their Pioneer Community Worker, engage with interested users and partners for the community building to support the vision and provide a framework for delivery.
  2. Actively engage with new residents to understand their aspirations for the community building and explore potential benefits for the wider community of Houghton Regis residents. Initiate financial preparations by raising funds from national and regional grant-making trusts, partners and investors.
  3. Working with the community to shape the design and build a response to the identified aspiration, in partnership with Houghton Regis Town Council and other organisations. Negotiate with developers, planners, architects and partners to design and fund a sustainable community building in both the short term (initial build) and longer-term (future running costs).
  4. Identify site, outline design and funding. Agree on ownership and management model with stakeholders and funders.
  5. Planning application and further consultation before building begins
  6. Community building opens, possibly in phases.
In all, the project is likely to need some £5.5 to £6m of investment comprising S106 from Developer/CBC (£1m + indexation) + Capital funding for Flats from Housing Association (£3m) + Charitable Loans from Denominational Institutions (£1.1m) + Grants (Capital/ Revenue/Initial Core Costs) from Multiple sources (£0.5m).

Councillors at CBC yesterday approved the proposal in principle to develop an inclusive community centre at Bidwell West, Houghton Regis and approved the allocation the 0.5ha of serviced land and £1m (index-linked) of S106 funds to the Houghton Regis Community Development Charity to develop a community building on the Bidwell West site (HRN2). Approval of the release of the land and S106 funds is conditional upon the submission and approval of a costed Business and Funding Plan which must demonstrate full funding for the proposed community building to be submitted to the Council by 5pm 30 April 2024. Councillors further agreed to delegate authority to the Directors of Transformation, Resources and Place and Communities in consultation with the Executive Members for Health and Wellbeing, Leisure and Communities and Corporate Resources to make decisions regarding the consideration and approval of the Houghton Regis Community Development Charity costed Business and Funding Plan.

*The Board of HRCDC charity consists of:
Stephen Copson Regional Minister of the Central Baptist Association
David Skinner Houghton Regis Baptist Church
Tricia Humber Diocese of St Albans
Debbie Hodgson Bedfordshire, Essex and Hertfordshire Methodist District
Patrick Kandeh Superintendent Minister of South Bedfordshire Methodist Circuit

Read more in the Proposal for Community Building in Bidwell West published by HRCDC (pdf).