Work is set to begin soon on building a new religious and community centre in Towcester after the scheme was granted planning permission.
Plans for the long-awaited Tove Valley Centre, between the Tove Long Stay car park and the Shires housing estate near Northampton Road, were approved by members of South Northamptonshire Council’s planning committee (September 5) yesterday at The Forum.
The venue will be the home of Tove Valley Baptist Fellowship and also act as a new facility available for hire by the community. It is set to be built in two phases, with the first including a 150-room meeting room, three smaller meetings, offices and kitchen and toilet facilities. The second phase would have a 300-seat auditorium, and a further meeting room.
It was unanimously backed by councillors, despite some concerns over the amount of parking space available. A 44-space car park is included in plans, but negotiations may also include the long stay car park being used by visitors to the centre during the evenings.
Councillor Stephen Hollowell said he was ‘still concerned’ about the car parking, especially if special events are held.
But Councillor Lisa Samiotis added: “It’s supported by the town council and we do need a new community building as there is a distinct lack of them in the town.”
An access has already been created since the approval of an earlier scheme in 2012 which fell through due to lack of funding, while a small play area will also be built to the rear of the building.
The first phase would be constructed later this year and comprise the main meeting rooms, whilst the second phase will include the auditorium and will be constructed in three to five years time dependent on fundraising.
Despite the unanimous backing, councillors did also raise some concerns regarding the building’s appearance.
Councillor Sandra Barnes said: “Is there going to be any outward signs that this is going to be a Christian building? It’s going to be run by a very energetic group in the baptists. I don’t see why we should shy away from the fact that services will be held at the building at the weekend. I think we should celebrate the fact that people want to build something like this.”
And Councillor John Townsend added: “One of my criticisms is that it doesn’t really identify itself as a building. It seems totally anonymous.”
Deputy chairman Councillor Ken Pritchard, standing in as chair for the meeting, told councillors that officers would talk to the designers and encourage them to put signs up to identify what the building is.