£1.2million enterprise centre plan for Oxmoor area

OXMOOR could get a £1.2million community enterprise centre as part of plans to regenerate the area east of what used to be called Sapley Square. The East of England Development Agency is believed to be willing to contribute up to £600,000 of the cost of t

OXMOOR could get a £1.2million community enterprise centre as part of plans to regenerate the area east of what used to be called Sapley Square.

The East of England Development Agency is believed to be willing to contribute up to £600,000 of the cost of the two-storey building that is expected to be included in a Huntingdonshire District Council master-plan for the area early next year.

It is the next stage in a long-standing project to regenerate the area, improve skills levels and employment opportunities and prise some people off benefits.

The concept for the 400-square-metre scheme envisages shops and community activities on the ground floor, with serviced space upstairs for micro-businesses, social enterprises and other voluntary organisations.


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The idea would be for any financial surplus to be ploughed back into developing the Oxmoor community in the same way as Huntingdonshire District Council has done with the proceeds of land sales in the area for housing and other developments over the past few years.

Ideas for shops include recovering furniture and electrical goods that would otherwise be landfilled - a charitable subsidiary of the Luminus Group social landlord already operates such as scheme in Fenland - and an enterprise preparing meals for vulnerable older people housed by another Luminus subsidiary in Huntingdon.

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There could be a hair-and-beauty salon for trainees at the nearby Huntingdonshire Regional College to gain customer experience, and perhaps offices or advice centres for voluntary organisations.

The first step is for HDC's cabinet tomorrow (Thursday) to endorse an application to EEDA for the funds and to commit the council to the principle of the development in which the council will have a one-fifth share of a "community interest company" that would be able to bid for additional grants.

Steve Couper, the council's head of financial services, said: "There are strong arguments to support a community enterprise centre to meet the continuing problems of higher-than-average unemployment levels.

"A centre would also provide increased skill and learning opportunities and additional community opportunities."

If approved, the centre could be open as early as summer or autumn of 2010, added HDC's director of central services, Ian Leatherbarrow. "It has been done in other areas of deprivation, and the evidence is that it works quite well," he said.

The move to develop that area of Oxmoor was the subject of extensive and ambitious local consultation during the autumn.

Historically, the area has been the subject of intensive regeneration efforts by HDC, the county council and government agencies, in collaboration with residents and the voluntary sector, that have delivered projects such as the Oak Tree Centre, re-development of shops in Sapley Square and the re-design and improvement of Coneygear Park and other open spaces.

* The recently-opened £2million creative enterprise centre in St Neots started with a similar price tag to that proposed for Oxmoor but became more refined as it attracted additional funding over the course of its development.

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