In 2013 Higham Ferrers Town Council put together a Community Plan which identified the need for a number of amenities in the town and enabled the council to put together a clear forward plan. One of these identified needs was a community centre. Over the years we have had feedback that there is not enough venues in the town which can cater for private hire and have enough space to house community groups, and those that are available are often located in schools or churches and therefore have limitations on when they can be hired. Our existing Sports Pavilion is no longer fit for purpose, is not big enough for a number of community groups and private hirers, and requires either significant renovations or demolishing to make way for a proposed new community building - which would serve not just the sporting groups that currently use Saffron Road Recreation Ground but all of the residents of Higham Ferrers.
Consultations have been carried out previously to establish public sentiment for a community centre project and ask for ideas on what should be in the building.
In April 2019 82% of people felt there was need for a new community centre, 63% felt Saffron Road Recreation Ground was a suitable location, and 62% supported borrowing funds to deliver the project.
The key facilities identified for a centre were function rooms, kitchen, bar, meeting rooms, sports changing rooms and a library area. This information was used to inform the design presented to you as part of this new consultation in February/March 2023. Pre-planning advice has been sought on this design and an estimated project cost of £3 million has been used for the purpose of this consultation.
Why is there a need for a new community building?
Higham Ferrers has grown by over 37% since 2001. The community facilities have not matched this growth and there is a need for better facilities – either through this proposed community centre or renovation of the existing Sports Pavilion.
What about the existing community facilities in Higham Ferrers?
There are a number of halls to hire in Higham Ferrers, but many of them are linked to schools and churches and therefore are limited with regards to access and availability. The town council has received feedback from residents that indicates they feel the current community venues available for hire do not offer the flexibility that many community groups need.
Why is the existing Sports Pavilion no longer fit for purpose?
The existing pavilion was built 1965 to 1966 and replaced the old grandstand which stood on the halfway line of the old football pitch. The pavilion was opened by Denis Howell the Labour Government Minister for Sport in June 1966. In the 1980's grant funding and cricket and football club financing enabled the conversion of part of the building from storage to a lounge and bar area and the upgrade of the changing rooms. The kitchen was later replaced and further grant funding allowed the addition of new flooring, insulation and heaters but some of these elements are in need of upgrading again. The changing rooms are not to Sports England's current standards and there is no natural light in the building so it is not an attractive option for private hire. The internal layout has been altered ad-hoc over the years and the bar room was formerly a garage and was not built or intended to function as a community room. Residents can hire the building but take up of this option is very low and feedback from hirers is that the facility is old, tired and in need of a full renovation. The pavilion is viewable on request at the Town Hall.
Would the skate park be removed for this proposed community building?
No, the plans you can see cover the area of the existing Sports Pavilion building and some extra, but do not impact in any way on the current skate park or the moat. The skate park will not be affected.
Who is making the decisions about what is included and not included in the proposed plans?
The decisions are made by Higham Ferrers Town Council which is made up of 16 councillors. No councillors are paid, a town councillor is a voluntary position and they are here to represent the residents of Higham Ferrers. The concept plans for this project have been drawn up based on previous feedback collected in public consultations on what the community want to see in a new community building. All decisions are made at town council meetings, which are open to the public and include a chance for the public to speak to the council regarding a matter of their concern. All decisions are published on our website. More information can be obtained from the Town Hall if you're interested in attending a meeting.
Why can't the money be spent on the roads?
Higham Ferrers Town Council are not responsible for any of the public roads or footpaths in Higham Ferrers. These are owned and maintained by Northamptonshire Highways (overseen by North Northamptonshire Council). None of the town council's money can be used on the roads or footpaths. The Town Council is not part of North Northamptonshire Council (NNC), our finances are completely separate and we have different powers and responsibilities.
What percentage of my council tax goes to the Town Council?
7.5% of your total council tax paid 01.04.2022 to 31.03.2023 went to the Town Council, the remaining 92.5% is that of North Northamptonshire Council (67.5%), Adult Social Care (8.3%), Police (13.4%) and Fire (3.35) services.
Why isn't there an option for zero council tax increase on the consultation survey?
There is no option where there isn't a council tax increase as the existing site would need significant renovation works even if the community centre does not go ahead. Any council tax increases are not just to pay for this project but also pay for the whole scope of amenities and services the town council provide to the residents of Higham Ferrers – including grounds maintenance, play areas, events and more.
Why does the council need to borrow money for this project?
The proposed community centre has a significant cost attached to it and quite simply, the council doesn't have that in its reserves. The council would look to use grant funding and fundraising where possible, with the borrowing of money as a secondary option.
How much will the building cost?
We estimate the whole project will cost around £3 million, but we will not have exact figures until we potentially move on to later stages following this consultation.
Does the building include sustainability features in the design?
Yes - the design incorporates various sustainability features in the way it is sited and orientated. An increased thermal mass, by the way of widened cavities and the use of increased insulation, will help to naturally regulate the internal temperatures and increase the thermal efficiency of the building. The north/south elevation, which would house the community halls, will have large opening windows whereas the east/west elevations, where most of the service spaces are located, will have smaller windows. There is also scope for a ground source heat pump as well as photovoltaic solar panels to the south facing roof.
Will this make parking in the area more difficult?
Adequate parking is a requirement of the planning process. The building would need to accommodate private hire events and 40 parking spaces are included on the plans. The aim is to ensure visitors to the community centre can park on-site so there is minimal impact on the surrounding roads.
Would this impact the use of the sports pitches or play areas?
No – this proposed project would not change the current use of any of the sports pitches, courts or play areas, it would just ensure there is adequate facilities for those who use or wish to use this space.
Why are town council offices being included in the building plans?
The proposed council offices on the first floor are an add-on, the primary function of the building is as a community building for sports and private hire.
Why are the town council in need of new offices?
Currently, council staff work out of the Town Hall but the office is very small and offers no privacy for residents or staff during phone calls or conversations, no rest area for staff and even kettle boiling can be disruptive and distracting. Better premises would mean the council would be able to serve the community better. Residents are always welcome to come and view the Town Hall, which is open to public between 9.30am-2.30pm Monday-Friday.
Why didn't the town council move their offices to the old library (pre purchase by Snowdon Homes)?
The town council looked at taking over the building very seriously. They instructed their own valuer and surveyor and also had sketch drawings produced on how it could be altered to make it fit for purpose and include Town Hall offices as well as more community space. With the purchase cost of £367,500 and the maintenance works that were required budget costs to achieve this was around £750,000. The existing facilities included one toilet for the whole building, no public access kitchen and no disabled access to the first floor. The survey showed roof works were required as well as windows and rainwater goods. In 2018 the council decided not to purchase the library building due to the costs involved.
Why didn't the town council move their offices to the Methodist Church building (pre-renovation)?
When the Methodist Church were in the process of considering the renovations needed in 2013 the town council spent about a year working with them to consider buying the property. They offered to buy the site at a nominal figure and look to develop it. The church would then have had an agreement for free use on a Sunday. All other church groups would have priority on the diary but would have had to pay. The church did not want to pay for the use and their requirements filled a lot of the diary. This would mean that the Council would be getting little income and there would not have been good availability for any potential private hire. In addition, alcohol couldn't and still cannot be used on the site and this was a covenant that would need to be lifted to make it open to all types of function. Ultimately an agreement could not be reached and it was clear the building could not function in the way that was required by both the town council and the church. In 2016 the Methodist Church installed a temporary building at their site and services commenced from it. With plans drawn up and planning permission received for redevelopment works, fundraising enabled ground floor works to commence and in November 2021 this was complete. The Church now has a large hall, capable of seating up to 150 people, with flexible partitioning to sub-divide the space into two more meeting rooms for smaller groups, a vestry, kitchen, small meeting room and toilets. The new floor/ceiling will divide the volume of the building, including the steel put in for a lift, ready for the upstairs to be completed at a later date.
Why didn't the council purchase 5 Wood Street when it was up for sale and move their offices there?
In 2017 the council considered the purchase of 5 Wood Street to provide offices but decided against it. Copy of the decision from the council meeting minutes: Councillors spoke both in favour of and against the purchase of the property. There was a recognised need that existing conditions in the Town Hall are tight for staff and that the property would be well located across the road. Works would be required to make the building fit for purpose and there were varying opinions on the practicality of the works and the use of the building as offices. Reference was made to the rebuilding of the Pavilion and this as a possible alternative for provision of office space. Consideration was given to Local Government reorganisation and the uncertainty surrounding it and the implications for the Town Council.
Have the town council considered any other locations for the proposed community centre?
Yes, the council have considered many possibilities in regard to the location of the proposed community centre. Saffron Road Recreation Ground is considered to be the best option as it is on land that the town council own, is central to Higham Ferrers and has the space that allows us to include the required parking and amenities. Other land we own includes Castle Fields, Little Castle Fields, the dogs off lead area, the Town Green, the land behind Henry Chichele School (now called Higham Heights), Riverside Park, some play areas and some small parcels of land throughout the town. Of the larger sites, Castle Fields is a Scheduled Ancient Monument and the process to obtain permission to build on the land would be prohibitively expensive and is not likely to be granted. Little Castle Fields is also a Scheduled Ancient Monument, very close to housing and would also not be big enough for the required building, parking and amenities. The land behind Henry Chichele School (Higham Heights) would require significant work to make it suitable for development and would cause parking issues with the nearby residences. The dogs off lead area is not centrally located and is currently in use as a public open space, and the Town Green has legal protections that prevent it being built on. Riverside Park is not suitable for building and no other land in Higham Ferrers that we own offers the space needed to facilitate the project. Any locations not owned by the council would involve purchase of the land as well as construction costs, and even if the land is suitable for development it would be much more expensive than using land we currently own.
If you have any questions that aren't answered above please contact the clerk at 01933 312075 or on email@example.com. The Town Hall is also open to the public from 9.30am-2.30pm Monday-Friday.