Community centre plans in Northampton put on ice after neighbour petition

A plan to convert a former house into a community centre in the middle of Spencer is to go back to the drawing board after a last-minute petition against the proposals.

Saturday, 13th October 2018, 3:07 pm
Updated Saturday, 13th October 2018, 4:29 pm
More than 130 residents in Merthyr Road signed a petition against plans for a community centre there.

Spencer Cultural and Learning wanted to bring a dilapidated house in Merthyr Road back into use by installing a prayer room, classroom and kitchen and making the space available for bookings.

Up until this week, it appeared there was strong support for the plans. Out of 32 comments left on Northampton Borough Council's planning page - 27 were in favour of the scheme.

But this week, 130 people living in Merthyr Road signed a petition against it, citing fears over parking, anti-social behaviour and noise as their main gripes.

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The house in Merthyr Road would have been converted to include a prayer room and kitchen.

Now Spencer Cultural and Learning has agreed to rethink the proposals.

Councillor for the area, Gareth Eales (Lab, Spencer) said he still supported the scheme in principle but believes there is now too much opposition to it as it is.

“This has been a controversial issue," he said. "I had asked that if planning were seeking to approve the application that they ensured formal enforceable conditions to prevent noise & parking issues, which the applicants were happy with.

"I also made it clear that local households and residents needed to support this venture and if informal resolutions couldn’t have been found, that a full planning committee should accept or reject the application.

Residents were concerned the scheme would lead to excess traffic on the road.

"It’s clear this particular location is deemed as not appropriate, what is also clear and undeniable is the need from within the sizeable local Bangladeshi community for such a facility. I’m pleased the applicants have opted to withdraw, but it is now vital that the council supports the local community to try and find workable alternatives. I will certainly play my part in that, for the betterment of the whole community, as is my elected responsibility.”

Several local residents were in favour of the plans before the withdrawal.

"This is an absolutely fantastic idea to have a community centre in walking distance," said one commenter on the borough council website. "This will give people in the local area a place to spend quiet times. Good location for elderly people who need assurances."

But Geraldine Barber, one of the petition signatories, said that the centre would make the parking situation in Merthyr Road even worse.

"Basically the parking here is horrendous," she said. "The buses can never get by as it is.

"I've had my car hit twice in two years by the buses.

"Then there is the noise from all the comings and goings.

"There is a need for a community centre but not in a residential street."