Timetable agreed for community centre transfers

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A TIMETABLE has been agreed to transfer four community centres in West Suffolk to community groups.

St Edmundsbury Borough Council’s cabinet signed off a recommendation to transfer two facilities to community ownership in 2013 with another two the following year.

The centres affected are Westbury and Newbury, in Bury St Edmunds, as well as Leiston and Chalkstone, in Haverhill.

A decision on which premises should be transferred in each year will be made by the cabinet at a future date.

The move follows the successful take up of Southgate Community Centre by a partnership of the existing community association and local church.

The borough council is the first in the country to commit to a full freehold transfer of this type.

At the cabinet meeting on Wednesday, Cllr Robert Everitt said: “It’s about empowering local communities and we will do our best as we did with Southgate to facilitate that empowerment.”

For Newbury, Westbury and Leiston, the authority will first approach the community associations which run the premises.

A report to the cabinet said: “This does not preclude consideration of other partners who might wish to play a role such as a town council or other community based groups.

“If an external group came forward with an interest in a centre which had a community association the borough council would look to bring the groups together to see if a partnership approach was possible as happened at the Southgate Centre.”

It was also noted that Newbury Community Association had previously registered its concern that ‘it lacks the skills to take on the full responsibility for the centre’. The report added: “Providing a timeframe gives the necessary focus for the kind of engagement the associations and borough council need to have to work through the transfer process.”