Why are we waiting? Delays in opening new Westmill Community Centre means ‘Hitchin community is suffering’
- Credit: Archant
Community groups in Hitchin frustrated at delays in the opening of a revamped community centre fear that continuing delays are causing suffering in the town.
The new Westmill Community Centre in John Barker Place should have been opened by March but its doors are still closed nearly three months after it was expected to open – with a confirmed date yet to be set .
The £2m building is now ready for action but red tape is delaying the opening.
Alcohol and drug treatment service Resolve is raring to go with plans to double the service it can offer to the Hitchin community once the centre is open. Resolve chief executive Joe Heeny told the Comet this week: “It is frustrating the new centre is not open yet.
“The town of Hitchin is suffering from us not being able to use the new centre – whether it be people who are directly affected by drug and alcohol issues, their families, the local community, and the NHS, the police and the criminal justice systems.
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“Resolve aims to bring services to Hitchin to support the whole family.
“We want to deliver these services through our and Westmill Community Centre’s commitment to the community.
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“We are raring to go. It is imperative the centre is open as soon as possible.”
In February Resolve was granted £9,800 from the Big Lottery Awards for All scheme, and £5,000 from the Community Volunteer Service – but can only fully use the money to expand the work they do once the new centre is open.
Mr Heeny said: “At the moment we operate three days a week from the old Westmill community centre – but we have plans to go full time and hopefully Saturdays, too, once the new centre is open – we’re very keen to deliver our new services to the community.”
Westmill centre manager Emma Connor explained: “There are so many community groups who have expressed an interest in using the new centre. We have nearly 50 looking to use the bigger space of the new centre once it’s open.”
With estimates putting the new Hitchin Town Hall – and still unopened museum – at between £1m and £2m over budget and still not open, the delays affecting another high-profile project in Hitchin is a further embarrassment for North Herts District Council.
Mr Heeny said: “It seems to be all about Hitchin Town Hall when there should also be a focus on the delays to the new Westmill Community Centre, too.
“Hitchin Town Hall has seen an overspend, which is a shame – we’d have liked to see some of that money used to help us help the community.”
When pressed on the delay in opening a spokesman for North Herts Homes – which built the centre on behalf of North Herts District Council told the Comet: “It’s like the conveyancing process when buying a house.
“Detailed paperwork does take time before the final lease for the building can be signed.”
North Herts Homes stated the new centre’s cost of £2m ‘was in line with what was expected’.
Councillor Tony Hunter, executive member for council community engagement said: “We hope all of this will take place within the next few weeks – then we’ll be able to start taking bookings and announce an official opening date.”
For more information about Resolve visit www.resolve-online.org.