An Exciting Opportunity

There is an exciting opportunity to take advantage of a housing development by using S106 to secure half a hectare of land on which to build a combined use building for the community. The emerging Saffron Walden Neighbourhood Plan has identified the need for another community building in the town. This should be a flexible, creative space to foster intergenerational interaction. There is an emerging partnership between Saffron Screen and the CommunityHub Management Committee, which could include the S/W Arts Trust and the S/W Photographic Society and other interested organisations.

The land would be ideal to build a flexible community space which could incorporate two cinema screens with a possible third if needed. A cafe and rooms for hire, performance space, educational facilities, potential offices, adequate parking, space for the creative industries, the potential for interaction with physical and mental health professionals and a meeting space for the whole community.

This opens up possibilities for:

▪ Providing space for Saffron Screen – 2 and a half cinema screens and film-editing suites.

▪ Renting out local office space, long term or “hot desk” or pop-up shop space.

▪ Music venue for performance, rehearsal and lessons.

▪ Meeting rooms available to book for play groups, conferences and exhibitions etc:

▪ Providing a venue where there is access to vital services and a place where the support, advisory and information services can easily access the community in a neutral space.

▪ Attracting people of all ages from across Saffron Walden and the surrounding areas to a high quality creative and social venue with catering and cafe facilities.

▪ Providing a centre for the arts and performance in Saffron Walden, both as a spectator and as a participant.

▪ Providing the opportunity to use workshops to develop skills, training and expertise; this could lead to employment.

▪ Giving an open space to allow youth provision to take place and providing a resource centre, which will enable a young person to access information on many vital issues, including health, debt, drugs, relationships and housing.

▪ Having a clear educative role for all ages and providing health facilities.

A Community Hub could have the potential for a huge range of customers; the possibility to cater for large and differing audiences and appeal to a large spectrum of people throughout the community. Combining various services in places where people gather naturally is ideal. The building would have the ability to promote inclusivity, enterprise and engagement and will aim to set an example of sustainability, healthy life-styles and creativity, working with all ages and abilities to develop their aspirations and full potential.

The beauty of a flexible multi-use space is it’s opportunity to cater for the changing demands of the community, a popular activity one month may become less popular the next. A Community Hub has the ability to develop with these trends and needs, allowing it to become a sustainable and cohesive part of the community scene. Saffron Screen has proved an outstanding community asset and has grown from strength to strength and they have been exploring the possibility of new exciting facilities including a cafe and extending their opening hours. Another popular local organisation, The Saffron Walden Arts Trust have been searching for a suitable venue for some years. Saffron Walden Camera Club is another local organisation who would fit with the Hub’s creative industries alongside opportunities for training and employment in the creative media. There is potential for including a long leased office suite and if needed in the future, library facilities.

One example of a successful Community Hub is to be found at Melbourne in Cambridgeshire ( It houses the local Parish Council offices, the library, a cafe with free WiFi and meeting rooms available for rental. It also offers a range of key community support services and aims to be a focus point for assistance and advice. It has been running for some years and offers a light-filled, welcoming, modern space to visit and use for leisure or business.
In it’s own words : “with such a wide range of facilities and services provided in one place for the whole community it is the place to relax, study, meditate, have lunch, meet friends, or just watch the world go by !”.
This is just the sort of building that Saffron Walden lacks and the need is increasing with every new development and many more families moving into the area. The project “ticks” many funding opportunities but the over-riding need is for the land on which to put the building. The Kier application on the opposite side of the road could open up the possibility of acquiring, through S106, the necessary half a hectare on the land near the Lord Butler Leisure Centre.
See below for the policies which support this initiative:

The Government’s National Planning Policy Framework states that the planning system should “deliver the social, recreational and cultural facilities and services that the community needs, planning policies should plan positively for the provision and use of shared space and community facilities”.

The Essex Design Guide 2018 states “The principle of co-locating community facilities applies to both major and smaller scale developments; in the latter case a new community building can be designed to incorporate multiple uses”.

Uttlesford Regulation 18 draft Local Plan states “Applications to provide and/or improve community facilities in the District will be favourably considered, providing the scale of the development is proportionate to the size of the catchment population it serves. Community facilities include buildings such as village or community halls, youth clubs, places of worship, education and childcare facilities and healthcare facilities.” See Policy C4.
In the Saffron Walden Neighbourhood Plan community consultation 90% of the consultees agreed with a policy to “Ensure new developments of significant size include local community facilities e.g. shops, leisure facilities, parks and open spaces”.

Category: Community News, Hub News, News & Events | Author: | | Read more