The opening of a new purpose-built community centre in the heart of Rayleigh is to be brought forward, with residents set to be able to enjoy this exciting facility by the Autumn of 2022.
The programme is being progressed by Voyage Partnership (a collaboration between Rochford District Council and development partner gbpartnerships) in order to offer residents a new, modern, multi-purpose community centre as soon as possible.
The intention is for the centre to replace the current Mill Arts & Events Centre, in Rayleigh, which has been closed until re-development, as the cost to operate the building as it is in the current climate has proved unsustainable.
Following its premature closure due to the pandemic, gbpartnerships were challenged with reprogramming activities to bring forward the opening date of the new community centre.
Originally the new centre was due to open in the Summer of 2023, whereas the revised opening date will be in the Autumn of 2022, around nine months ahead of the original schedule, subject to the relevant planning process.
By demolishing the existing centre at the beginning of the programme it allows greater access to the site and enables works to progress more quickly. This means that a new community centre can be provided in a much shorter timescale.
Ongoing access to the Windmill will be maintained throughout. Further information will be made available via the www.voyage-partnership.co.uk website, where detailed plans will be released for comment as they become available, and a series of frequently asked questions is available at: www.voyage-partnership.co.uk/faqs
Leader of Rochford District Council, Cllr Simon Wootton, said:
“I know the new community centre will be eagerly awaited by our residents, so I’m pleased to be able to bring forward the anticipated opening date to the Autumn of 2022, some nine months earlier than originally expected. The new centre will offer a much more modern and inviting environment than the current site, providing flexible space for our partners and the ability to host a range of activities for local adults and children to enjoy in the years ahead. This has been one of the hardest years in living memory for most of our residents, with everyone having different challenges to face, so I’m pleased that we can bring something positive to look forward to as a community in 2022."
George Farley gbpartnerships Programme Director said:
“We are delighted to be able to accelerate the development programme enabling the new community centre to be brought forward and available to local people sooner than was previously planned. As soon as we have more information about the design of the Centre, we will share it on the Voyage-Partnership website”.
The upstairs of the new community centre will house modern meeting rooms and office spaces for use by the council and its partners, including Citizens Advice and Rochford Rayleigh and District Association for Voluntary Service (RRAVS).
What is the proposal for the new community centre?
The proposal is to re-develop this site for residential use and a new community centre with flexible space for both Council and community uses.
The new community facility will be a standalone building spread over 2 floors, it will be facing onto the windmill and the sensory garden designed to complement these heritage features.
Upstairs will be modern meeting rooms and office spaces for use by the council and its partners to meet with members of the public – maintaining important service provision in Rayleigh.
Downstairs will be the publicly hireable space which can open out onto the windmill to make full use of the outside space and the magnificent backdrop of the windmill e.g. for weddings or fayres. This downstairs space can be configured into a single hall which can accommodate 170 people with built in storage and a bar/kitchen area – ideal for larger gatherings and performances.
The downstairs space can also be sub-divided to accommodate smaller groups simultaneously – perfect for exercise classes and community meetings. The size of the rooms has been determined by analysing the most popular uses of the existing rooms in the Mill Arts & Events Centre which were underutilised for their size.
It is not good value for money to simply convert the existing building, as we know for the majority of the time, very large spaces are simply not used frequently enough. Consequently, the new community facility will be smaller than the existing Mill Arts & Events Centre, but this will ensure its future financial sustainability.
Although the new community facility will not be able to accommodate the same number of people as attended for the few very large events which have been held in the Mill Arts & Events Centre, the council will be working with existing and prospective users to find commercially viable ways to support those events e.g. by discounting hire charges to enable event organisers to spread their large audiences over a greater number of days.
The Council plans for energy efficient spaces within the building which will be independently controlled with super-insulated walls to minimize supplementary heat required. Amongst other features we are seeking to include are a living wall which will add further ecological richness and provide an iconic and memorable external appearance. We also plan for environmental features such as automatic irrigation utilising grey water, which will ensure that the green roof and walls are low maintenance.