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UPDATED: ‘Vandal resistant design’ for £600,000 community hub

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Architects of a £600,000 community hub for Wisbech say they have aimed for a “vandal resistant design”.

Planning permission is expected to be given to Fenland District Council next month and work could start soon afterwards.

“The hub will be located in the town park and include a multi-purpose hall, cafe and toilets to be built next to the apple orchard,” says a design statement.

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“It also features a vandal resistant design, with things such as concealed metal shutters to protect the building’s windows a key priority.”

Residents were asked for their thoughts on the community hub a year ago to be built on the site of the unused pavilion.

Pick Everard photos from their design and access statement for planning application
Pick Everard photos from their design and access statement for planning application

Fenland Council says they invited residents to tell them what it should contain and what it should be used for “to ensure that the building is as flexible as possible and meets the needs of local people”.

Over the course of a one-month consultation the council received more than 220 responses through SurveyMonkey alone.

It provided “valuable insight provided into how the building is likely to be used and even on how the design of the building itself can reflect Wisbech’s heritage”.

Cambridgeshire County Council has offered £240,000 towards construction costs.

Pick Everard photos from their design and access statement for planning application

The county council had expected the money to have been drawn down by now but is expected later this month to extend the agreement.

The county council says the award had slipped slightly after Fenland Council “consulted the local community and on this basis enhanced their plans.

“While this resulted in additional costs, they successfully sought additional funding.

“The county council’s assessment is that the original outcomes will not only be met but exceeded because of the amendments.

“The project is awaiting planning permission and is scheduled to start construction in November 2022 with an estimated completion date of March 2023.

“While the changes described above would necessitate a change in the milestones and other elements of the grant agreement, no other capital communities funding resource has been sought”.

The committee overseeing the award is recommending that “support for the project should continue”.

The hub is also receiving funding from Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority, Wisbech Town Council and Fenland District Council.

The plans for the £600k facility were put forward to Fenland District Council in July 2022.

Architects say the proposed materials for the hub is in keeping with the context, yellow/buff bricks, grey aluminium windows, curtain walling, grey metal flashings to roof, exposed glulam beams, timber soffit and a sedum roof with PV panels (TBC).

The external elevations (north, east, and west) feature soldier buff brick course bandings above the glazed panels to match contextual architectural language.

The south elevation (rear) is kept simple and include a louvred door to plant room and aluminium windows.

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“The vandalism issues on site imposed the need of protection to all glazed openings around the building,” says the architects.

“Metal shutters are proposed as a potential solution. The construction detail of the metal shutters will ensure that the shutter box is concealed within the wall build up and is located on the internal side and a flushed finished is achieved on the external elevations.”

One resident has asked about days and time of use, concerned about parking in Park Avenue.

“As we have issues with constant parking outside our house for people who think this road is temporary parking for hospital appointments at the North Cambs Hospital,” he has told Fenland planners.

“Plus, every Sunday the running club using the road for parking and total disregard for residence in respect of shouting at one another while there from 9am.

“I have to get up for work at 3.45am every weekday and only have weekends to rest.

“Both myself and my wife feel this will have a negative effect on our street as this centre will attract people to park here for access.”

He is also concerned about litter “as the park has bins and yet some people find it impossible to put rubbish in them as I am sure your council workers would confirm.

“Also, there is an issue with people urinating in the park because they cannot walk a few yards to the public toilets.

“There are security cameras in the park that never see this (surprisingly) and never seem to see the people in the park partying right through the night during the summer especially.

“Myself and my wife are not opposed to community services but feel that unless controlled or policed properly this will have a negative effect on our community and our lives.”

Another resident told the council “the proposed community hub is a laudable proposal, a potential asset to the neighbourhood.

“However, it is the design that causes concerns. Overall, it looks very blocky with little or nothing to please the eye.

“The employment of some imagination could result in a far more inventive design.

“It should not be particularly difficult – this is what architects are supposed to do.

“Furthermore, the proposal contradicts policies on climate change adaption, in design.

“Those large windows would be fine in winter, though they will be a curse in summer, no doubt with unspecified curtains drawn across them. It would not look good and will drive up costs.

“A better and more thoughtful design would be appropriate.”

Fenland Council says that as it is themselves applying for permission, it will be up to October’s planning committee to determine the application.

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