Thursday, 22 March 2012

Improved community facilities in #Southcote #rdg - have your say

We are getting really close to improve the community hub for Southcote residents.  Local people along with the ward councillors, including our wonderful Mayor Deborah Edwards, have been tireless in campaigning for this for years now.  By bringing council services together and seizing the opportunity to redevelop the derelict Happy Prospect site with new social housing I'm proud that this long held ambition is now at the stage of detailed proposals.


I'd encourage everyone who lives in the Southcote area to drop in on Wednesday, Friday or Saturday next week to see the proposals.
And here's that video of the flowers again:


Council press release:


Plans to improve community facilities for Southcote residents step up a gear next week with local people encouraged to attend one of three up-and-coming drop-in sessions.

The next stage of delivering a much-improved community hub for Southcote, to be used and enjoyed by every age group, comes when Reading Borough Council presents proposals shaped by the local community itself at a series of public sessions on March 28, 30 and 31 at Southcote Community Centre in Coronation Square.

Local residents are being urged to set aside some time to attend one of the three planned sessions so they can see for themselves how plans for a new and improved facility on the site of the current Community Centre are shaping up. It is also another opportunity for local residents to help shape what the new site could offer.

Flyers are being delivered to every address in Southcote this week to advertise the three sessions. They are on Wednesday March 28 between 10am and 12.30pm, Friday March 30 from 2pm to 5pm and on Saturday March 31, between 10.30am and 12.30am.

Residents do not need to stay for a whole session   they can drop in for as long or as little time as they like. Council officers will be on hand to make notes of their feedback. Light refreshments will be available.

Next week's sessions follow on from two well-attended neighbourhood events back in November of last year, as well as a public meeting last summer, where residents were asked what they wanted from a new community facility.

Lots of ideas were put forward and, as a result, the Council has now come up with some proposals to improve the general feel of the centre. These include renovating the lounge area and making it more open, refurbishing the toilets and kitchen and replacing the front entrance to make it more welcoming.

The Council is also looking for people to be part of a steering group which will help run the centre and take the plans forward. People can register their interest at the drop-in session. If residents cannot commit to a formal role, lots of volunteers are also needed to help run activities and groups at times throughout the week and weekend, even if it is just for a few hours.

Rachel Eden, Reading's Lead Councillor for Communities and Neighbourhoods, said: 'The Council really wants the community centre to be a place that people from across Southcote feel they are part of, so I would encourage everyone in the neighbourhood to come along and tell us what you think. The turn-out at the previous sessions in November was fantastic and this is another chance for residents to have a look at the proposals and put forward more ideas. This is a community centre for the people of Southcote so it is only right residents shape it.'

Local residents in Southcote have consistently called for improved facilities in the area to cater for all age groups. A significant breakthrough was made last Autumn when the Council announced community facilities in Southcote could receive a significant boost if proposals for the possible redevelopment of the former Happy Prospect pub site were given the go-ahead.

The Happy Prospect pub was demolished in early 2011. On 31st October 2011,  Reading Borough Council's Cabinet approved a £280,000 social housing grant for a 16-unit affordable housing scheme, and on 9th November a planning application for the 16-unit scheme was approved by the Planning Applications Committee subject to the completion of a legal agreement. The legal agreement secures a contribution towards enhancing existing community facilities in order to mitigate the loss of the former pub use on the site. Planning permission was granted on 7th March 2012 .

The creation of additional affordable housing in Southcote - which include four much-needed family-sized units - have the added benefit of reducing the need to place homeless applicants in temporary accommodation, reducing pressure on council finances.

Residents unable to make any of the drop-in sessions but who would still like to be involved should fill out the form on the back of the flyers being distributed and return them to Southcote Library, Southcote Advice Shop or the Community Centre (all in Coronation Square).