Community centres to get new lease of life

Four community centres have been saved, thanks to action from Aylesbury Town Council.

It has agreed to buy Aylesbury Railway Club to preserve it as a community facility, as well as agreeing to take on three community centres that have been offered as part of Buckinghamshire Council’s Devolved Services Programme.

After being in operation for more than 65 years, the railway club closed in June 2023. But plans are under way to reopen it this year to ensure the ongoing availability of what is regarded as a vital community resource.

The new community hub could be used for many purposes including:

Cultural centre: a space for music and drama performances, amateur drama groups, creative workshops, film shows, lecturers and exhibitions;
Social centre: a welcoming and safe environment for social activities and community forums;
Learning centre: rooms and facilities for local schools and learning organisations;
Health centre: rooms and halls for fitness activities and classes and potentially GP forums, blood donors etc;
Leisure and recreational centre: a hub for new groups to develop as well as existing clubs and societies;
Information centre: a place for signposting to local groups, activities and services;
Advice centre: opportunities for organisations to offer advice, counselling services, drop-in sessions to benefit local residents;
Celebration centre: space for private functions and celebrations including weddings, christenings and parties.

At the same meeting, the town council agreed plans to secure the future of Aylesbury Multicultural Centre, Haydon Hill Community Centre and Quarrendon and Meadowcroft Community Centre including Bowler’s Field, which will be taken on by the council on a 25-year lease agreement, beginning 1 April 2024. The council will be working alongside existing community associations and committees which manage the day-to-day running of the centres.

The decision was made as part of the council’s vision to work with community centres and make them more accessible for the ward and community areas they serve.

The community centres are all vital facilities for residents to get together through a range of community events such as bingo nights, luncheon clubs, sports activities and other events. The council’s involvement will safeguard the future of these centres and support existing community associations that run them.

Leader of the council, Richard Lloyd, said: ‘I am delighted that Aylesbury Town Council are in a position where we can save four community centres for our residents.

‘One of which, the Railway Club, was at risk of being lost and the three community centres funding was to be withdrawn by Buckinghamshire Council. As our town grows and at a time when many community assets elsewhere in the county are at threat, Aylesbury Town Council is stepping in to safeguard their future.

‘Buckinghamshire Council will be reducing their “Aylesbury Special Expenses” so that the transfer of the three centres is cost neutral to the taxpayer.’

Following these decisions, the council agreed to set its 2024-25 precept to £2.50 per week for a Band D household.

Mr Lloyd said: “It will allow us to continue the full programme of events offered throughout the year, such as Parklife Weekend, Aylesbury on Sea, Christmas on the Cobbles and Soapbox Derby; improve our community services, including Tring Road Cemetery, allotments, our outdoor maintenance schedules, Christmas light displays, Jonathan Page Play Centre, Aylesbury in Bloom projects and continue to support and invest in the town and our community through the new community hub at the Railway Club and other projects.

‘The council continues to support a wide range of organisations year-round through its grants programme, too.’

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