‘We don’t want community house to close’


The planned closure of Sandhills Community House is proving a controversial decision, as angry campaigners argue that the alternative centre is not a suitable replacement.

Sandhills Community House, which helps residents on the estate who are feeling isolated, is due to close in 2016, but the Southern Residents Group (SRG) feel this may harm the community, with the replacement Astral Park facility not being easy to access.

SRG member Colin Johnson, said: “We are disappointed that Central Beds Council decided to go against an earlier commitment to continue with the community house for another five years in a new location, the development currently being built near McDonalds, Billington Road.

“The Astral Park facility is too far away from this part of Sandhills to have much influence on helping the new community there.

“Its manager is very good but the Astral Park centre lacks a cafe/drop in zone like the community house runs.

“It was disappointing of the council not to work with the community house to build the same community focus and ethos that has worked so well since the Sandhills Community House was opened.”

Central Beds Council says it has plans to ensure that community cohesion will still be abundant after Sandhills Community House closes.

Councillor Nigel Young, said: “We want to build communities not just homes so it’s really important to us that new developments have the right facilities for people who chose to move there.

“The community house on Sandhills was only ever intended to be a five-year temporary resource, which would then be returned to the owners.

“Brand new, alternative community facilities are now available at the Astral Park facility opened in March this year and at Greenleas Lower School which opened last September.

“Further facilities will be offered in the future when the Extra-care scheme on the west side of Billington Road is completed. This will provide facilities for all local residents similar to those at those of the community house, including the an informal ‘drop in’ café.”

Workers at Sandhills Community House, who wish to stay neutral in the debate, have asked Lodestar to survey residents and compile a report to give a clear understanding of how beneficial the house has been.

The report is expected to be finished by the end of 2014 and will provide feedback regarding the impact of community projects and will be used to assess the need for similar ventures.

Programme and partnerships officer, Gina Croxford, said: “It has always been envisaged that the house will close in 2016.

“However, many residents have said that they would like it to remain open for longer; but this would be dependent on a number of factors.”

Residents can find a link to the survey on the Sandhills Community House Facebook page. It needs to be completed by July 31.

If anyone does not have internet access they can visit Sandhills Community House who will provide them with a hard copy to fill in.