One of the aspirations of NWI BLT is to have a ‘Place where community facilities are thriving and well used, providing a range of activities for all ages, faiths and cultures’ so when we learnt about forthcoming changes at Castle Hill Community Centre NWI BLT members understood the need to get involved and support this much used facility. Here is the backstory..
Remaining calm on the surface.
When it was announced in September 2015 that Community Action Suffolk (CAS) would not be renewing their contract with Suffolk County Council (SCC) in March the community attended a meeting to let the council know in no uncertain terms that they wanted this iconic building to be protected from demolition or being used as office space and continue to be open for all, not boarded up and lost like so many other community facilities in NW Ipswich.
The community had spoken and the message was clear: Castle Hill Community Centre had to stay!
SCC continue to own the building and are in full support of it remaining a community centre for local residents to enjoy but said there is no funding available to run it again as in previous times. It has however agreed to provide some transition funding & is making a contribution to building repairs in order to support the changeover.
Numerous meetings and many hours burning the candle have resulted in a committed group of local people, with a wealth of experience between them, starting the formal process of taking over the building: from submitting a formal Expression of Interest, creating an Interim Management Group, forming a Board of Trustees, submitting a Tenancy at Will to employing a centre manager. All of that had to be completed before April 1st .
As you would expect, the new team are busy putting together a programme of repair & decoration, endeavouring to ensure work complements the style of this beautiful old building.
It’s amazing what can be achieved when the community comes together and the expression ‘remain calm on the surface but paddle like hell underneath’ seems to be a fitting summary of the last few weeks. Importantly, visitors have commented on the changes by saying they hadn’t noticed much difference, which is a huge compliment to the team who have kept the transition as smooth as it can possibly be.
It is anticipated that part of the building will be occupied by Highfield Nursery who are looking to expand their services in the coming year and will need more space. The building is just a few short steps away from the nursery and is ideal for them.
Just as before, there are options for long term rentals and for room hire from an hourly basis and many of the existing users have remained and the team looks forward to welcoming many more to share the space in the future. To ensure the community centre is sustainable it has to meet current needs and ensure that adequate resources are available. It is the aim to increase the range of activities that our community can take part in. This in turn will bring our community together more to socialise and learn new things. If you have an idea for an activity or group or maybe you miss something that used to run, please let them know.