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Case Studies - Knighton Community Centre


Knighton Community Centre is the largest of 46 Council-owned village halls and community centres in Powys. For the hard-pressed centre Committee - which has been battling with the changing needs of residents and users, the building’s rising bills, its leaking roof, and its outdated appearance and facilities - the Centre is just too big. The task of running it as a conventional venue for entertainments and community and privatel events has become unsustainable.

Negotiations between the Management Committee and Powys County Council have been under way for some time about the present group creating a new charitable company to take over ownership of the building. In 2012 Knighton Community Centre’s Management Committee took advantage of the Council’s Community Hub Programme to commission research into what Knighton’s 3,000 residents really want and need from the building.

The research confirmed what the committee suspected. Entertainments and private hire events for weddings and parties remain important. But there are also big gaps in support services, project activity, and training opportunities for a variety of disadvantaged groups in the community. These include active retired people, people experiencing isolation and mental illness, young families, and victims of unemployment and the town’s economic challenges. And the Community Centre has the potential to respond to these needs.

In its present form Knighton’s Community Centre’s vast main hall, bar area and limited office accommodation are hopelessly unsuited to these new uses. So an architect was invited to take a radical look at how space is used. What emerged was a proposed £700,000 refit to create an exciting multi-purpose hub providing activities in an internal "community street", a newly-created mezzanine office area above the hall, and an inviting new reception area. Funding to realise this ambitious community hub is also needed for paid development staff in the first two or three years to establish new activities, attract users and establish an enlarged team of volunteers.

Increased income would come from renting a greatly increased range of attractive community spaces, higher user numbers, and a reinvigorated bar/café. The centre would also offer opportunities for devolving public services to community organisations, and for outside agencies to provide local surgeries as spending constraints change the way services are delivered.

Fundraising, including the resubmission of a Big Lottery application which failed for technical reasons at the first attempt, remains a critical challenge. For the time being, though, the plan to save Knighton Community Centre and realise an ambitious community hub project has to remain an exciting vision.

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