Last Tuesday the Town Council agreed to spend £15K on a feasibility study on a Civic Centre/Community centre/hub, I’m sorry I cannot be more precise as no written report was submitted to outline what the proposition was, it was agended as a feasibility study on a civic centre, but it was clear the proposal was for something other than that agended. But I am unsure what sort of facility the feasibility study will be based upon.
No evidence was given at the council meeting on current community space provision; it's strengths and weaknesses, on what community space is available, the quality of that space, the cost of that community space and the occupancy of that space, so no justification was made for additional community space. All these facts should be measured against the social and economic needs of the Town.
There were no aims and objectives or coherent vision produced for the of their grand plan, despite having nine months to do so, still the Council decided to tender for a feasibility study, presumably someone knows what should be included in the terms and reference and detail of the feasibility study, but remarkably this was not even discussed or placed before the Council meeting.
Not so many years ago Shepton 21 produced a feasibility study for a community hub type project, this is freely available and you would have thought that this would have been revisited before contemplating spending an additional £15,000.
On the same council agenda, the council asked me to lead a working group to revisit and produce an updated and coherent Town Plan, this to address the needs of the Town. The Council has had a capital budget for many years, so it would be reasonable to wait until the spring when the Town Plan is complete before spending £15,000, so not to prejudge the views of Sheptonians.
The only community view we have heard on a proposed Civic/community building was the Town Poll that was held last year and 90% voted against spending money on such a building.
The Shepton Mallet community has many challenges, we’ve seen cuts to our bus services, our youth centre has been closed and the outreach work will be finished in August, we are in danger of losing our hospital beds and the Town Council is spending more on partnership funding for Mendip Council’s cuts and there is no doubt the pressure on the Town Council budgets will increase.
The former clerk told me “you can only spend £1 once”, I say it is better to invest in our young people, our older people and the sick and projects that make a direct improvement in community life now, rather than waiting years to build this community/civic building and we should not even start until the people give a majority view.