Approval expected for £300k upgrade of Newington Community Centre alongside £500k extension project

Newington Community Centre

Councillors are expected to approve a £300,000 spend to upgrade Newington Community Centre’s existing building alongside work on a £576,250 Levelling Up project to create an extension for a training kitchen at the site.

Early designs for the Levelling Up scheme were revealed last year and also included a kitchen garden, lunch yard, glazed walkway, new entrances, an orchard area, polytunnel and pizza oven space.

The project is being funded by £19.8m of Levelling Up money awarded to the town by central government in 2021. Architects Jan Kattein have been working with Newington Community Association on the plans to create the kitchen and space for people seeking job and training opportunities which will be headed up by community chef Mike Spackman. Mike already works with Newington Community Association to share food, cooking and health skills with residents, schools and college students.

Levelling Up early design

The additional £300,000 , which will come from the council’s Housing Revenue Account, is needed for mechanical, electrical and plumbing items. A report to Cabinet members says the work will: “significantly upgrade the energy efficiency of the building and lead to much lower operational costs for the centre in the long term. These improvements will also support the council’s transition to net zero across its asset portfolio.”

Works will also include the renovation of the toilets, creating accessible facilities for the community, creation of small one-to-one offices for wellbeing sessions and a new accessible entrance.

The report says: “These minor layout alterations will have large impacts on the operation of the centre overall and allow multiple uses of the space simultaneously, as opposed to one activity requiring the entire space.”

The centre is run by the Newington Community Association (NCA), which is supported by Starlings Support as part of the Big Local programme.

The building is currently leased to the Newington Community Association until 2027 with plans to extend that lease.

Mike and kitchen team at the Wednesday lunch scheme

Programmes already running at the centre include a Wednesday affordable lunch scheme, food banks, an employability scheme and volunteering from former prisoners looking to take their lives in a new direction.

The Wednesday lunches are created under the guidance of Mike but as well as bringing Newington residents together, particularly many regulars from nearby Copperfields retirement housing complex, the meals are part of a practical work ready scheme run in partnership with EKC Group, Thanet Job Centres and Thorley Taverns.

Upgrade works to the existing building in Princess Margaret Avenue will be carried out at the same time as the Levelling Up extension to minimise disruption and keep costs down through the use  of one contract.

The report says: “The Community Association have had a number of building issues over the term of their lease, and the basic nature of the building construction has meant high running costs and inefficient energy usage, which impacts on the operations of the centre.

“A new lease will be proposed for the completion of the works, on the basis that the community centre would be in a good condition following completion of the project. It would also be easier to operate and maintain.

“In the development of the LUF scheme an initial feasibility design process was undertaken over the summer of 2023 by Jan Kattein Architects (JKA), with input and discussion with the Newington Community Association, Starling Support and feedback from the local community. “JKA were subsequently appointed, following a competitive process, as the design team for the remainder of the design and delivery period for the Newington Community Centre scheme.

“The design process has reached the end of RIBA Stage 2, and a number of surveys have been undertaken. The surveys have identified issues and shortcomings in the existing building that require a resolution to ensure that the Newington Community Association can maintain and operate the new and existing facilities effectively into the future.”

The additional works and funding will be discussed by councillors on the scrutiny panel on March 12 and then by Cabinet members on March 14.

Early designs revealed for £19.8m Levelling Up Fund projects at Ramsgate port, harbour and Newington Community Centre

Labour Shadow Secretary of State for Work and Pensions visits Newington Community Centre to see how lives are being changed