Plans for new Saffron Walden community hub revealed

Community hub masterplan.

Community hub masterplan. - Credit: Archant

Plans for an exciting new Saffron Walden community hub that will combine recreational space with the emergency services have been revealed to the Reporter.

The proposal for the site, next to the Lord Butler Leisure Centre on the edge of town near to prospective homes, includes two buildings – one hosting the police, fire and ambulance service and one hosting a cafe, support and advice services and an arts centre.

The surrounding landscape will be used to promote health and fitness, and provide inclusive recreational space that is accessible for all and can accommodate the growing population of the town.

The community-led project, set out by The Hub Management Committee, is seeking to involve people in the town with the design and construction of the site to develop the right services for the community.

The idea for the hub, which is a sloping field of 7.8 hectares, is to house the two buildings at the flat Thaxted Road end of the site, and use the incline for different areas of participation such as a trim trail, a forest school, a pond dipping area, allotments and bike riding.

The proposal faces a major stumbling block, however, in that the project is dependent on Kier Living, which owns the land, re-submitting its proposal to build 300 homes on the opposite side of Thaxted Road.

Kier had their application for the housing development turned down in May 2014, and their appeal to overturn the decision was rejected on June 2 this year.

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Without the green light, the site will not be allocated by Kier for leisure and recreation use in the community.

A report by the The Hub Management Committee cites a lack of youth and family facilities in Saffron Walden and the need to integrate the emergency services to provide an improved system for the town.

The report said: “Built in 1885, the old police station in Saffron Walden is in need of expensive maintenance and is no longer fit for the purposes of a modern police force. The fire station is on a site in the middle of town, and this means that firemen have to come across town to get the engine out, which wastes valuable time in getting to the fire or incident. The model of a shared fire and police emergency hub buildings in Essex have already been adopted by Brightlingsea and Tiptree.

“The ambulance station is situated on the back of the Radwinter Road hospital and this land may be needed in the future to build a new health centre for the town. A feasibility study is underway to move the two recently merged surgeries to the community hospital. Moving a wider range of services back into a community setting, such as a health centre, is understood to be one way health officials are looking to alleviate the pressure on major hospitals. It could reduce travelling for patients, who would have access to more services under one roof.

“These ideas have already been adopted in other places in Uttlesford, the fire service are sharing “dynamic activation points” with the ambulance service at Thaxted and Newport as part of Essex’s Response Hubs Scheme.

“The surrounding landscaping can help to keep our community healthy and we think that there is a wonderful opportunity to safeguard an important open space.”

Kier said: “Kier Living Eastern were extremely disappointed that the appeal was dismissed. Our application was for 300 homes off Thaxted Road in Saffron Walden, of which 120 would have been affordable homes.

“In addition, Kier would have provided land for a new leisure facilities and a primary school. Kier Living Eastern is now taking advice in respect of this matter.”

The trustees of the Hub Management Commitee said: “The trustees see this exciting conceptual plan as a long-term solution and we hope that this will be included in the Saffron Walden Neighbourhood Plan and the Uttlesford Local Development Framework Plan in due course.”