Two significant community centre redevelopments, paused as Oxford City Council responded to the first wave of the coronavirus pandemic, have been unpaused in the Council’s latest budget.
Bullingdon Community Centre and East Oxford Community Centre each had significant redevelopment projects under development when the pandemic hit. Like all major capital spending projects these were put on hold while the Council addressed the initial challenges of the pandemic. In its proposed 2021-22 Budget published yesterday the Council has given the two projects the green light to restart, even within the context of significant financial constraints.
As with any project mobilisation following an extended pause, and to help ensure the smooth delivery of each project, the first step is for officers to undertake a review in light on any changed circumstances. This will include an assessment of any construction cost inflation, as well as the ongoing impact of the coronavirus pandemic on the construction industry and its supply chain. This work is now underway and the Council will engage with project partners and stakeholders through this work.
Bullingdon Community Centre
The existing Bullingdon Community Centre has been deteriorating from some years and plans to replace this were well advanced when the project was paused. The Council has worked very closely with the Bullingdon Community Association and had already undertaken community consultation and received planning approval for redevelopment when the country went into lockdown in March.
The budget paper, published yesterday, is recommending to Cabinet that the Council un-pauses the £1.3m allocation made in last year’s budget to enable to the centre’s redevelopment to proceed. The first step is to undertake the project mobilisation review and restart the process of appointing a contractor.
Restarting the project is a recognition of the importance of providing longterm sustainable community facilities which meet the local need and that this must be is delivered within the financial constraints of post-pandemic local government spending.
East Oxford Community Centre
The East Oxford Community Centre project is a major redevelopment of the existing community centre, and includes residential developments at three sites in the Cowley Road area. Through this project the Council aims to deliver community facilities that meet the diverse needs of residents, and to provide a housing mix that also offers affordable homes, and homes for social rent. The Council is also committed to delivering high environmental standards.
This is a multi-million pound investment in East Oxford that has been developed in consultation with the local community to provide for the ongoing benefit of the area. The planning applications for this project were submitted in the same week that the country went into lockdown.
This is a complex project, contingent on many factors for successful delivery, including the receipt of planning permission and the delivery of a number of residential developments on land in the local area, to help fund the project. Given the Council’s significant funding challenge, project cost pressures, and wider implications on project delivery linked to the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, the project mobilisation review will need to carefully consider how best to deliver the project within budget and to the scale of ambition first put forward in 2016.
“Investing in community facilities and infrastructure has a hugely beneficial impact on the health and wellbeing of communities and the life opportunities of individuals, which is why we have committed to making these key projects happen. Especially as our community centres have played such an important role in the Council’s frontline response to the coronavirus crisis.
"At the Cabinet meeting in June, the Council published the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the Council’s finances. Yesterday’s budget made clear that there is a new financial reality for the City Council to come to terms with, and it is a challenge that we will need to face head on if we are to meet the needs and priorities of Oxford residents. That’s why we have made the decision to unpause these two major projects in Bullingdon and East Oxford.
“Our decision is based on our determination to build a strong future for the communities in those areas and wider Oxford residents too. We realise that this will not be straight forward. In the short term, as part of the project mobilisation review, we will need to work to reconcile the existing plans and our finances to realise these priorities. However, with the support and patience of local community groups, stakeholders and the respective community associations we are determined to succeed.”
Councillor Marie Tidball, Cabinet Member for Supporting Local Communities