It was announced in late April 2014 that Sturton Street Methodist Chapel would close due to lack of congregation. This is not unusual, but the site and the hall it is attached to are unusual.
The site is in the centre of Cambridge in Petersfield, the most densely populated area of the city, which has an acknowledged lack of both local green and community space, and lost a popular community centre in the 1990s due to a sad sequence of events between the city and county council. The population here has increased in recent years as small industrial sites have been replaced by housing, as has the number of older people, and the proportion of younger people has increased 2% above that.
The hall, with a relaxed religious influence and despite lack of publicity, is a major community facility and the top non-school youth facility in the area – largely due to a popular dance school which uses it for four days a week. This only serves to emphasize the lack of local provision. The site also hosted toddler groups, tango lessons, and various other activities, including many birthday parties, topping 250 regular users in peak weeks of the year. It reaches well beyond Petersfield itself.
We don't want to lose this site, so we're trying to find a way to acquire it in the community interest – as a sustainable, self-funded community centre. IN the process, the sheer scale of the possibilities here keep surprising us and we are now expecting the site to be able to operate at a substantial surplus.
The original group of dancers and toddler group parents have joined with the local residents’ charity PACT, whose aims have long been to establish a local community centre, and which identified this site as probably the best local candidate some years ago.
The site has now been registered as a community asset, and from 1st September is in community asset sale moratorium, which PACT will extend to the maximum six month “community right to bid” period by expressing an intent to bid.
The population density, lack of further in-fill space and conservation area restrictions in Petersfield make this a space which is not going to be replaced. The area has received various bits of "s.106" funding to improve local facilities, but without any publicly owned spaces, it has all gone to organizations which serve the wider cambridge community like AgeUK, or churches which serve narrower communities. We need somewhere whose aims are to unite, whose aims are local. There is no other way than to take this opportunity to buy somewhere.
This won't only serve the current population in south and east central Cambridge, but is also ideally placed close to the last couple of spaces to be developed in Petersfield, at the Travis Perkins and Mill Road Depot sites. Both of these could benefit from an established local community centre, able to link old and new communities. Both are earmarked for dense housing provision and would struggle to add community provision on site. Further, no new centre could be self-funding or self-run from day one, or perhaps ever, if started in a new community.
At a Cambridge level, the notable lack of community resources to the south of the centre when compared to the Northern fringe will be rebalanced by this in addition to the new centres in new developments to the South. It will also be the nearest facility to the town centre, and provide valuable performance and exhibition space in a size range which is identified as being lacking in Cambridge. The buildings provide genuinely amazing large spaces and we desperately want them saved for the use of the community which built them and has funded them for one hundred and forty years.
We're not rural, we have deprivation but we're behind the major areas of deprivation in Camridge, we do have rooms you can rent for £15 an hour in the area. The thing we don't have is an inclusive community space. This space could be amazing. It can benefit local business, people and arts; it can bring the life of Mill Road right into the community and with its stage and exhibition space it can become a local hub for arts without removing anything from other locations. We hope you will support us.
who we are
Petersfield Area Community Trust (PACT) was founded in 1997 and aims to organize supportive structures to foster local community spirit in the Petersfield area of Cambridge, originally focused on acquiring a community centre for the area. We are a forum which seeks to further the interests of residents and to fulfil community needs. We have been linked to “Better Government for Older People” for several years, and have worked in partnership to develop “Petersfield Celebrates Age” as part of the widest annual programme of events designed to tackle ageism and social isolation in the County. We campaign in areas such as planning, public open space, older people, youth and community facilities, vandalism and transport. We also hold public meetings and parties in order to promote better communication within the community and between the community and other bodies.
In 2007, PACT became a Registered Charity, #1118762, as a step forward in taking ownership of a new Community Centre.