Community centre handover is a first

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A GROUND-BREAKING takeover will see Southgate Community Centre in Bury St Edmunds put into the hands of the community.

The centre, previously owned by St Edmundsbury Borough Council, is being officially handed over to the Southgate Community Partnership (SCP) on October 21.

It is believed to be the first community centre in England to be taken over by a community group with a freehold lease, meaning he SCP will own the property outright.

MP David Ruffley, the Mayor of Bury St Edmunds Christopher Spicer and members of the borough council’s cabinet will attend the ceremony at the centre.

Sarah Stamp, borough councillor for Southgate ward and a trustee of the SCP, said it was great news for the community.

“It has been two long years of planning but the handover has now successfully happened,” she said.

“It is ground-breaking in that it is the first community centre in the whole of England to have been negotiated on a freehold basis.

“It puts the centre completely back in the hands of the community.

“Already I can see that it is getting more use – it is going to be the hub of Southgate. It is fantastic news for the whole community.”

The council is also looking to hand over community centres in Westbury, Leiston, Newbury and Chalkstone.

On Wednesday evening, the council’s overview and scrutiny committee voted to recommend the target transfer window for the remaining centres be moved forward.

Bob Jones, trustee and secretary for the SCP, said: “There are five community centres across the borough that are being handed to the community and we are the first to go.

“It has taken two years to get where we are now – it has not been an easy process and we have had to jump through a lot of hoops but it has been worth the effort.”