Early plans for Paddock Wood centre approved despite rising £2.3m build cost

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Paddock Wood is a stage nearer to having its own Community Centre after early plans were backed by councillors.

The proposed £2.3million development would contain multi-use halls for sport, council offices and community activities, as well as rooms for a pre-school if it was built on Memorial Field.

Paddock Wood Town Council voted nine against two [with one abstention] in a special meeting on June 12 to back RIBA Stage 2 designs.

Cllr Elizabeth Thomas, one of those to have voted in favour, said: ‘This is long overdue as we do not have a hall that can hold more than 80 people.’

She explained the new hall would be split into three sections and could hold around 300 people.

Residents had raised concerns about noise, lack of car parking spaces, flooding risks and a general lack of consultation.

But despite some councillors discovering the cost of the project had risen £1.2million to £2.3million on the night, they still voted in favour.

Cllr Thomas added: ‘We must make it pay so that it is a building used by as many people as possible.

‘We are at a stage where clubs and groups want to meet but it is incredibly difficult to find somewhere to meet.’

The Times reported in February that more than £900,000 was to be paid by developers towards ‘a community centre’ in Paddock Wood, as part of the planning agreement that saw an agreement for 1,000 homes to be built in the town by 2026.

Cllr Thomas said this money would be used and that the council could obtain funding from the Public Works Loan Board towards the project.

Those to vote against were Cllr Rodney Atkins and Cllr Ray Steward while Cllr Sarah Hamilton abstained.

Cllr Atkins also voted against the project at the RIBA Stage 1 point and said his concerns about the financing of the project was his primary motivation for his decision.

‘I don’t know where the extra money is going to come from,’ he said.

‘I am also concerned about the amount of parking. The plans state there will be 61 spaces, but that is not enough for 300 people.

‘We should also not be losing our green spaces and I have not seen any documents which state there is a shortage of hall space in Paddock Wood.’

The councillor calculated that if the authority was to find the remaining £1.5million [not accounted for in Section 106 monies] with a council tax rise, it would cost the average Band D property owner an extra £3.70 per year.

The town council shall now proceed to RIBA Stage 3, which will see further logistic method and detail accounted for.

The timeline for the project, which was listed within council documents, showed the centre would open in August 2020, if all goes to plan.

The town council has appointed Frankham Consultancy Group as architects for the project.

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