Agenda item

Agenda item

East Oxford Community Centre - Improvement Scheme

Cabinet, at its meeting on 10 November, will consider a report on the East Oxford Community Centre. The Committee is asked to consider the report and agree any recommendations thereon.

Cllr Shaista Aziz, Cabinet Member for Inclusive Communities has been invited to attend for this item. 




Councillor Shaista Aziz, Cabinet Member for Inclusive Communities, introduced the report which brought forward proposals for redevelopment which had been worked on since 2014. This major scheme and investment would provide an important, sustainable cultural hub as well as some much needed affordable housing. The East Oxford Cultural Centre had strong emotional connections for many residents and much of the preparatory work had focused on positive and constructive discussions with the many and various groups and organisations which use it or have used it in the past.

Hagan Lewisman, Active Communities Manager, said a considerable amount of work had preceded the report including consultations with users and  a number of detailed feasibility studies.  The necessary planning permissions and budget were in place.

Deb Wyatt, Affordable Housing Supply Officer said the scheme would provide 26 affordable, low carbon and highly energy efficient homes.

The Committee noted that a Council press release had implied that the Committee had already agreed the proposals given in the report. This was regrettable both because it pre-empted any views the Committee might have and also because it was Cabinet rather than the Committee which would ultimately agree the report’s recommendations. Cllr Aziz apologised for this miscommunication and said she would ensure that the matter was addressed and the press release corrected accordingly.

The Committee made a number of detailed observations and suggestions. The  focus on energy efficiency/ carbon reduction was very welcome and  it was agreed that some means of measuring what savings will have been achieved as a result would be welcome. The Affordable Housing Supply Officer said consultants were being appointed to measure this (among other things) in relation to the housing element.

A project of such a scale inevitably ran the risk of overruns; this was not reflected in the risk register accompanying the report and it was agreed that it should be.  The Active Communities Manager said that there was tight governance of the project which included regular meetings with consultant Project Managers and Architects Arcadis, robust contingency provision and a project risk register that captured wider project risks.

The final arrangements for governance of the centre was an important matter. The report proposed that there should be a year of operation before agreeing the future arrangements. It was agreed that there should be an ambition to have concluded the arrangements two years after that.

Members of the Committee had received correspondence about the use by “Catweasle” of the centre, a matter which had the potential for some reputational damage for the Council. The Active Communities Manager reassured the Committee that a positive relationship was being re-established with Catweasle which was a much loved and valued community activity at the centre.

Concerns had been expressed about the need to demolish the building used by Fusion Arts. The Active Communities Manager explained that the building was in very poor condition and not economical to maintain. The building  was particularly inefficient from an energy point of view and it would not be cost-effective to refurbish it to the level of efficiency which would be provided by a new one.  The Council response to Fusion Arts concerns would be shared with the Committee in due course. The  identification of deteriorating building quality as  contributory factor in reduced levels of centre use had been  informed by user feedback.

The desirability of a suitable space for dance (with a sprung floor being considered) was being factored into the design.

A great deal of work had been (and was being done) to accommodate the needs of all those who currently use the centre both in the short, medium and long term whether tenants or not.  Account was also being taken of the prospective needs of new users.  The importance of the new centre capturing its previous “soul and vibrancy” had been recognised and would be informed by continuing close engagement with the local community and all who use it.

It was agreed that materials from the site as parts of it are demolished should be reused wherever possible.  

The Committee resolved to recommend that the Council:

·       Sets down plans for measuring and assessing the effectiveness of carbon-saving measures delivered on the East Oxford Community Centre development, and their cost efficiency in reducing carbon emissions.

·       Includes within the risk register for this project those external risks to land values referenced in paragraph 52 of the Cabinet report

·       Implements within three years of the new community centre being opened the preferred option for its management and operation

·       Will, where possible, recycle materials recovered from the demolition of the East Oxford Community Centre site, particularly steel and wood.


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