Plans for future of Huntingdon’s Medway Centre are focus of packed public meeting
- Credit: Archant
More than a hundred people gathered at a public meeting held in Huntingdon to discuss controversial proposals for the future of the Medway Centre.
The meeting, held last Thursday, saw residents and users of the centre question Huntingdon Town Council members and officers about the proposals, which include the possibility of demolishing the facility, in Medway Road.
The meeting was held after The Hunts Post revealed last month that the town council had started talks with Huntingdonshire District Council about the potential to replace the current centre, which was built in 1979, with a new building at Coneygear Park.
In exchange for an interest free loan to build the new centre and the freehold of the land the Medway Centre sits on, the town council would potentially grant the freehold of the One Leisure site in Huntingdon to the district council.
A packed out Medway Centre heard three options that have now been put on the table for the future of the hall including total refurbishment; demolition and rebuilding the centre; and building a new centre on an alternative site using the income for the sale of the Medway Centre.
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Councillor Tom Sanderson, chairman of the leisure and community services committee, told the meeting: “Nothing has been agreed we are just looking at options. We are 100 per cent dedicated to having a community centre in this area.
“There isn’t any danger of the centre falling to bits but it will need a lot of maintenance in the next few years – nothing has been agreed as we’ve got to look at costs but the cost of refurbishing the Medway Centre is very high.”
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But it was revealed by the estates manager for the town council, David Jameson, that the town council has had estimates conducted for repair work on the building which totalled around £800,000 as repairs need to be carried out on the roof, air conditioning as well as windows and doors.
It was also by announced that the authority had been in talks with those involved in the building of Loves Farm House, in St Neots, and been given an estimate of between £800,000 and £2million to construct a new, environmentally friendly hall.
But residents raised concerns that as the council had already sought costings, more discussion had taken place than originally thought, with one member of the public, telling the meeting it was “a complete smoke screen for putting housing on this space”.
At the meeting, Councillor Alan Mackender-Lawrence said: “Why now get to 2016 and think to pull it down. Why didn’t the work on this centre get done earlier – if anything needs to be done to this centre it needs to be redeveloped.”
The fear of a potential housing development being put on the site was shared by the majority of those who attended.
Questioned by a resident that the land could be sold to a developer to build houses on, Cllr Sanderson said: “We are a high growth area. We cannot guarantee if there is going to be a development somewhere near here. We need the houses.”
It has not been decided whether the land will be sold off to developers.
Many also shared concerns over how some people, especially the elderly, would get to a new centre if it was built at Coneygear Park or in another location.
This concern was shared by the Voice of Medway Court action group which has started a petition and has gained more than 50 signatures so far along with the Battle of The Medway Facebook page set up by the Huntingdonshire branch of the Labour Party.
Heather Channing, who lives in Medway Court, in close proximity to the hall, told The Hunts Post: “Those that live at Medway Court can go just about this far for bingo, if they pull it down then they can’t walk to Coneygear Park.”
In answer to the concern raised by a number of attendees, mayor of Huntingdon Councillor Bill Hensley said: “If the building is moved it will make it a lot closer to some people. If this building needs to be refurbished it will be closed for something like nine months to a year.”
Chris Sykes of the U3A, who uses the centre, told the meeting: “The building is not fit for purpose. It is not big enough; we can’t fit more groups in as we can’t fit them in as there isn’t the space. It would be nice to see it redeveloped.”
After the meeting, Cllr Sanderson told The Hunts Post that he believes that another meeting to discuss proposals for the Medway Centre could be held in July following further talks with the district council.