Builders offer a bargain to Littleport: they will donate a community centre if planning rules are relaxed.

LITTLEPORT Parish Council is supporting a ground breaking plan to save the village’s Regal Community Centre from the bulldozers.

The owners of the site, builders Buckingham and Sparrow, want to enter into a bargain with the village - they will give the centre to the community in return for permission to ditch the building of social housing on a separate site.

Such a plan would guarantee the future of the Regal centre, which is currently the home to five community groups and used by more than 300 local people.

If the Regal was lost, some of the user groups - including Stepping Stones Pre-school - could be forced to close, and other groups would have to relocate. The centre is also used for private functions, including weddings, funerals and parties; and the car park is leased to East Cambridgeshire District Council.

The parish council is supporting Buckingham and Sparrow’s request to depart from planning regulations, and have asked East Cambridgeshire District Council to drop a requirement for affordable housing to be erected at the builders’ site near the Highfields Estate.

A report put before the parish council said the lease agreement is due to end in June of next year. It adds: “Buckingham and Sparrow has stated they have no intention to extend the lease and will be seeking planning consent to develop the site for residential housing.

“Negotiations have recently taken place with B&S to identify a solution to save The Regal.” The report says the gift of the Regal would “far outweigh any disadvantages that arose from not building the required number of affordable homes at the proposed development site.”

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According to the report, the Regal could be “a profitable asset” for Littleport Parish Council; and when in community ownership it could attract grant funding.

Supporter of the scheme, Councillor Andy Wright, said: “The parish council felt that this presented a unique opportunity to preserve and expand facilities within the village.

“There is little point in creating more social housing, when as a consequence we will loose much needed facilities that these families need.”

He said the organisations using the Regal site have five full time and 15 part time staff, as well as a number of volunteers.

Cllr Wright added: “This suggestion would be win, win, on both sides. The builders would feel comfortable that the building would come back to the village; but they need some compensation.

“The Regal is such an important site to the village infrastructure that on this one occasion we have asked for the social housing requirement to be suspended.”