Future of Northampton community centre at risk because of potential noise complaints from new houses

Councillor Dennis Meredith at the Southfields Community Centre, which is at threat of closure because of a neighbouring housing development.
Councillor Dennis Meredith at the Southfields Community Centre, which is at threat of closure because of a neighbouring housing development.

The future of a well-used community centre in the east of Northampton hangs in the balance because of a controversial small housing development, the charity running it has revealed.

Up until recently, The Southfields Community Centre played host to a nursery, a Pentecostal church and a residents' association.

The community centre in Southfields.

The community centre in Southfields.

It was also regularly hired out for birthdays, weddings and other events.

But last week, the Glorious Liberty Pentecostal church pulled out of the venue, run by the charity Community Spaces Northampton.

A small barn conversion housing development granted last year now physically joins onto the community centre, prompting fears that any noise made during events will draw complaints form neighbours.

Parts of the community centre car park is currently dug up to allow drainage works to be completed at the homes.

Jane Birch who is both a trustee for Community Spaces and a borough councillor, said the charity was now considering whether to keep running the site altogether,

"It was a totally unsuitable place to put a residential development," she said.

"Sharing a car park with a community centre, which has people coming and going late and parties at night, it's just not right.

"We opposed this development but it went through anyway."

Planning permission for the homes on Northampton Borough Council-owned land was granted in 2016. The sale of the land netted the council an estimated £125,000.

But Councillor Birch said Community Spaces is considering vacating the centre unless it can find funding to expand into another adjoining barn on the site.

"We are always looking at ways we can make this work," she said. "But we can't risk putting our other centres at risk if this one stops being economically viable."

Bishop Gideon Olowoya, who had been running the Pentecostal church at the community centre, said he had to move the congregation out before people started moving into the homes.

His services at the community centre often involve gospel singing, which he said would not be welcomed by any new neighbour.

"When people start living there they are going to start complaining," he said.

Community Spaces runs eight community centres around Northampton and must break even each year n order to retain its charity status.

Councillor Dennis Meredith (Lib Dem, Talavera) opposed the housing plans in 2016 and gathered hundreds of names on a petition against it.

He fears people in Southfields will have nowhere to go if its communal hub is vacated.

"I made a big noise about these plans at the time and the council took no notice.

"Now it is coming back to haunt the borough council."

Councillor Phil Larratt, deputy leader of Northampton Borough Council, said: “There’s great demand for homes in Northampton and the borough council is required to make the best use of its assets and ensure that development continues so that more families can live in safe, decent homes within the borough.

“That said, we recognise that communities need more than just houses to thrive so we are exploring various options for the existing community centre. I’m confident that we can reach a solution that means there will still be a viable community facility in this area in the future and hope to see more opportunities for young people to get involved too.”