Thursday, 03 December 2020

£3m sale of youth centre site goes through

A CARE home is set to be built on the site of the former Henley Youth Centre.

A CARE home is set to be built on the site of the former Henley Youth Centre.

The land in Deanfield Avenue has been sold for £3million to B&M Care, which intends to submit a planning application before the end of the year.

The keys to the centre were officially handed over to James Bradshaw, project manager for the company, by Clive Wilkinson, chairman of trustees, and trustee Elizabeth Hodgkin.

Mr Bradshaw said the company wanted to create a “landmark” building and was already in discussion with South Oxfordshire District Council’s planning officers.

“We’re in the process of putting a planning application together,” he said. “That will hopefully be finalised in the next month with the hope of getting the application submitted this year. It normally takes another 18 months from that point to get permission and to start work.”

He said the new home would accommodate about 60 residents.

“There will be a mixture of residential and dementia care â?? it’s not a nursing facility,” he said. “It would probably be three storeys, I would think. There may be space for other facilities on the site if that’s what the council is looking for.”

The site has been allocated 25 homes under the joint Henley and Harpsden neighbourhood plan but this would be meaningless if the care home is given planning permission.

The site was due to be boarded up and secured this week and an application made to demolish the youth centre building.

The 0.6 hectares of land was put up for sale by the Thamesfield Youth Association following the closure of the centre in December. The trustees said they could no longer afford the £45,000-a-year running costs.

The sale included a derelict plot behind the centre which was owned by The Henley College.

The proceeds will be split between the association and the college with the former receiving a slightly larger share.

The association plans to invest its share of the money and spend the yield on youth projects in the town.

Mr Wilkinson said: “Rather than continue paying to keep an old, tired building going we’re going to use this money more directly to help young people in the town.

“We have to move with the times and people are not looking for a building. I think there are lots of things we can do that don’t involve a building and as trustees we need to sit down and decide what they’re going to be.”

Mr Wilkinson stressed that the decision to sell was not taken lightly but was driven by a lack of funding and a reduction in the number of young people attending the centre regularly.

Mrs Hodgkin, a former town mayor, said it had been 15 years since her first conversation with the college about the future of the site.

“This is the beginning of something new,” she said. “Thamesfield has never been cash rich.

“I feel quite emotional about the whole thing. I’ve been packing up the centre over the last couple of weeks. Everything has gone to good homes.”

The youth centre moved to Deanfield Avenue in 1961 from Thamesfield House in Wargrave Road, which is now a retirement complex.

The association agreed to relocate in return for an annual contribution towards the centre’s overheads from Oxfordshire County Council.

However, in 2011 the council said it could no longer afford the grant due to “unprecedented budgetary constraints”.

The trustees argued that the agreement was binding in perpetuity but the council stood firm after taking legal advice.

Henley Town Council then pledged to give £10,000 a year for three years.

In October 2013, the association’s annual meeting heard that the youth centre was forecast to lose £20,000 a year and its future was uncertain.

B&M Care was chosen from 27 bidders for the site. The company, which was founded in 1972 as B&M Investments, owns 22 residential and dementia homes in Berkshire, Buckinghamshire, Hertfordshire and Northamptonshire.

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