The treasured Sandhills Community House will close to the public on Friday (August 5) and be handed back to the house builders.
The popular venue was first opened as a central hub for the residents in April 2011 with the intention to tackle the social isolation often experienced by residents living in new communities.
The success of the Plover Road project has been “immeasurable” according to Gina Croxford, programme and partnerships officer, at Sandhills Community House.
She said: “Residents have not only attended classes and groups at the Community House they have also developed the confidence and skills to run and establish their own new groups.
“As a result of surveys and discussions with local residents opportunities were offered to meet the needs of local people. For example, the Sandhills Book Club, the Sandhills Singers Community Choir, the Parent and Child group, Sandhills Seniors and the Business Networking group etc.
“However, work at the Community House has also extended to supporting local, small businesses. By offering a sliding scale rental agreement individuals have been able to establish their businesses in a progressive way, without a large initial outlay.
“Miss Amy’s Dance Studio, now based in Grovebury Road, is a great legacy of the Sandhills Community Project. Miss Amy rented a small room at the Community House and offered baby ballet classes.
“Over a period of three years Amy went from offering one class per week to a full programme of eight classes per week. Due to the unique nature of the Community House and the expertise and vision of a local resident a successful business has been developed that has benefitted the local community.”
Gina said the cafe had been central to the success of the community house has been the café. She said: “The ability to drop in for a chat and buy great food at reasonable prices has enabled local people to meet informally in a supportive space.
“This is where friendships and connections have been made. From young parents to elderly residents the Community House has welcomed them all, listening and responding to the needs of the local community.”
Some residents launched a petition in vain to save the much-loved venue.
The campaign was led by resident Joyce Lawrence who presented a 562-signature petition to Central Beds Council’s Executive in December calling for a five-year extension of the lease, along with running costs including the retention of Voluntary Community Action staff.
ButGina said: “It was always envisaged that the services and activities offered by the Community House would be transferred to new purpose built venues situated in the locality.
“Astral Park Sports and Community Centre has space available to rent and would be an ideal location but it has not been possible to secure a dedicated café space.
“There will be a cafe at Greenfields that will be open to the public; the date of closure for the Community House was due to coincide with the opening of the Greenfields café on Monday 18th July.
“Aldwyck Housing is responsible for ensuring that the community facilities, including the café, are open at Greenfields to provide a continuation of community services in the local area. To date, Aldwyck have not confirmed when this will be.
“The final issue of our House 2 House newsletter will be delivered in August; this will include details of the organisations and community groups that are continuing to provide services in the area.
“We would like to thank the residents of Sandhills for supporting us during the last five years and a special thank you to all the volunteers and delivery partners who helped to make the Community House such a happy, positive and successful community venture.”
Some comments from users of the house...
> ‘‘Having just moved to the area I needed to meet other mums. The Community House has literally saved me from becoming depressed. Without the support from everyone who comes here and also the staff that work here I don’t know how I would have coped. I love how friendly everyone is. The café is perfect; great for the little ones.”
> “I have regularly been coming to yoga at the Community House, which I have thoroughly enjoyed. It’s been a great place to meet people and attend activities. It is such a positive project!”
> ‘‘I am devastated that the Community House is closing. Not only is it a home from home, offering vital support but it also gives my son a safe garden to play in, which we don’t have living in a flat. The Community House is a safe haven for your darkest days.”
> “I love the Community House and the staff who run it make me feel so welcome. I feel part of the community and it is nice to socialise with other mums in the community with our babies and be able to have lunch together after a class. Our favourite is Al the Music Man on a Tuesday.”
Send your view on its closure and the alternative options for activities/services in the area to firstname.lastname@example.org