Could Stevenage's historic Fairlands Farmhouse become healthy living centre?
PUBLISHED: 07:02 16 January 2018
The historic Fairlands Farmhouse in Stevenage could become a centre for healthy living, after the 17th century building was listed as an Asset of Community Value.
The Grade II-listed farmhouse in Fairlands Valley Park has been empty since November 2016, after long-term tenants Digswell Arts Trust moved out because the building had fallen into such a bad state of disrepair.
The artists had been given notice to quit when owners Stevenage Borough Council marketed the farmhouse for sale for pub/restaurant use in both 2008 and 2011, but the building remained unsold.
The council listed the property as an Asset of Community Value in September, which means community groups can have six months to raise the funds to buy the property if it is approved for disposal.
During the first stage of the process, three groups have expressed interest and now have until March 26 to come up with viable business plans.
Chris Oak, a Stevenage resident for 22 years, is part of a group who have put forward a proposal to develop the farmhouse into a healthy living centre.
He said: “The farmhouse should be a community resource. Its use by the Digswell Arts Trust achieved this to some extent, but it wasn’t available to the wider community and there wasn’t the funding to develop the building.
“As part of our proposal, people would be able to hire rooms to run different treatments and therapies from. As part of their contract, part of their time must be given to the disadvantaged population so, whoever you are, you can access that facility.”
Chris also said they are looking at relocating a Stevenage pre-school to a prefab in the farmhouse grounds, but that plans are still in their infancy.
He said it may also be possible to work with community interest company Friends of Fairlands Farm, which was set up by Stevenage resident David Martin and friend Alex Lewis in a bid to turn the site back into a working farm.
Chris said: “The building hasn’t been a resource the community could use and we want to create a facility that is universally accessible. Clearly there is work to be done and we appreciate it won’t happen overnight.”
Chris and his group are holding a meeting for the public to attend and share their ideas at 6.30pm on Tuesday, January 23, at Bedwell Community Centre, on Bedwell Crescent in Stevenage.