The broken promises of Longford Park

Longford Park Community Centre remains closed. Kal Mann and Antonio Ferrara of the LPCA look on NNL-190502-134749001
Longford Park Community Centre remains closed. Kal Mann and Antonio Ferrara of the LPCA look on NNL-190502-134749001

Residents of Longford Park are growing increasingly frustrated at the contractual stalemate that is keeping their brand new community hall tantalisingly out of reach.

Completed last August by developers Taylor Wimpey, Barrett and Bovis, centre was due to be opened in September, and reservations for its use were already being made.

Longford Park Community Centre remains closed NNL-190502-134928001

Longford Park Community Centre remains closed NNL-190502-134928001

But a disagreement between Cherwell District Council and the developer consortium over the fixtures and fittings in the centre, means the opening has been delayed.

Longford Park resident, Antonio Ferrara, vice-chair of the Longford Park Community Association (LPCA), said: “We were advised by the council to start taking bookings for the space because it’s supposed to be self-sustaining financially. Then we had to cancel every one’s Zumba, children’s parties and everything.”

Kal Mann, resident and LPCA member said: “We’ve got a website working, people were booking on it, it was packed.

“Even the police and fire brigade wanted to use it to get everyone involved and we’ve had to say ‘sorry’. It’s really disappointing.”

The community centre was required as part of a section 106 agreement, a legally binding caveat between local authorities and developers.

Once completed, the centre, which includes a main hall, commercial kitchen, smaller function rooms, a cafe space and offices, was due to be handed over to CDC. And in turn CDC would lease the centre to a committee of residents.

But, according to Antonio, the council and the developers have not been able to agree on the fit out.

He said: “The fit out is all specified within the Section 106 agreement but they are still managing to argue over the cups and plates.

“The really frustrating thing, as far as we understand, is the developers basically haven’t been engaging at all.

“The section 106 was written years ago so the council has been saying ‘where it says a VHS recorder, can we have a DVD?’ and the answer has been no.

“It’s been hard to extract the information but that is roughly where we are at.”

Adding to the community’s frustration is the fact that house building continues by the developers at both Longford Park and nearby Bankside.

Kal said: “A lot of people here have got upset because this hasn’t been opened but they’re willing to build more and more houses.”

The handover from CDC to the LPCA comes with a start up fund.

Antonio said: “The simple solution would be to give us the keys and we’ll get on with it, even if we have to source some stuff from the community.

“What the developers and the council have said is instead of buying pots and pans they’ll give us a cheque and we’ll go and buy them, which is fine.

“But the council won’t take on responsibility until they get what they want from the developers.”

Victoria Prentis MP said: “I am disappointed that the Community Centre is yet to open. I’ve had a number of meetings with CDC and the Consortium about the delay which has been frustrating for local residents.

“I know the council has been working extremely hard to move matters forward and I will continue to do all I can to support the committee. Progress must be made as soon as possible.”

A spokesperson for consortium developers, Taylor Wimpey Oxfordshire, Bovis Homes and Barratt Homes, said: “We understand the frustration caused to residents and we would like to apologise for the delay in completing the works.

“We are working closely with Cherwell District Council to complete works to the community centre and, in recent discussions, have proposed that the handover of the centre to the council will take place in spring 2019.

“Plans for the doctor’s surgery are undergoing discussion and we will keep residents updated on the progress of this.”