As part of the necessary supporting infrastructure for the North Wokingham Strategic Development Location, Wokingham Borough Council is building a new primary school and community centre within the Matthewsgreen development.
Kings Church Wokingham approached the borough council last year to be considered as the operator for the new community centre in Matthewsgreen.
Following this request and the submission of a detailed expression of interest, the council agreed in principle for Kings Church Wokingham to be the operator of the new community centre. Last month (June), the council granted planning permission for an enhanced community centre based on Kings Church designs and their willingness to invest up to £1million into the building.
Within the last week, the council has been informed by Kings Church Wokingham that they no longer want to be the operator for the Matthewsgreen Community Centre.
In a statement to the council, the church explained that through its Eldership Team and with its new leader, Owen Haywood, it has been reviewing all aspects of the church’s work and future plans, including the community centre proposal. This has led to the decision not to continue to contract stage for the running of the centre. The church has confirmed that it will pay any costs incurred to-date to which it has committed. In reaching this decision, the church stated:
“The continued growth of the church, both in its adult congregation and the children’s work, has made us question whether the facility, when delivered in 2020, will be suitable for our needs. It was always a compromise, requiring the possible use of the adjacent school facilities on a Sunday. It was recognised that, as a church, Kings draws people from right across the Borough and beyond, and that the focus right now is on equipping them to live out their Christian lives in the community where God has placed them.”
The council would like to reassure residents that it has planning permission for the original design for the community centre and is still on-track to begin building on-site later this year, with both the community centre and primary school to be ready by summer 2020.
Wokingham Borough Council is now interested in talking to any local groups or organisations who have a serious interest in being operating the Matthewsgreen community centre. Anyone wanting to discuss this can contact Mark Redfearn, lead council officer for localities services, via (0118) 974 6000.
Cllr Stuart Munro, executive member for business, economic development and strategic planning, said: “This news has come as something of a shock to the council considering the large amount of hard work done by Kings Church and council officers to get us to this point of nearly being ready to begin building the new community centre and primary school. The council was supportive of Kings Church ambitions for the new community centre and was pleased by the amount of public engagement they conducted to understand the needs of local residents.
“Whilst their decision is disappointing, it will not delay building plans for the community centre and primary school and we will now be identifying other opportunities for securing an operator.”