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Jericho Wharf community centre plan to be ‘rescued’ by developers
A “RESCUE package” for a planned multi-million pound community centre in Jericho could be brokered in talks between residents and a developer.
The centre was included in designs for the proposed £16m Jericho Wharf redevelopment, off Canal Street, put forward by developer Strategic Iconic Assets Heritage Acquisition Fund (SIAHAF) last month.
But the Jericho Wharf Trust (JWT) claimed new plans, put forward by the developer, had pushed up the cost of the building to £6.6m.
The trust, which has to pull together the money for the development, had originally had an estimate of £5m for a new community centre to be built and was concerned about raising enough for the higher price.
Now it has been revealed that the trust and developer SIAHAF are in talks to broker a so-called “rescue package” – which the Oxford Mail understands will be a six-figure sum.
Under the plans, developer SIAHAF would help plug the so-called funding gap, securing the construction of the community centre.
SIAHAF spokesman Nick Band said: “We can confirm that we have offered to help fund the community facilities.
“SIAHAF and JWT share a passion for this development and hopefully our support will bring us another step closer to realising this vision.”
Trust member Peter Stalker also confirmed that talks about the deal were going ahead.
The offer is being seen on both sides as an attempt to patch up relations, following spats between residents and the developer over the community centre’s cost, as well as the decision by SIAHAF to make just 32 per cent of proposed housing included in the Jericho Wharf scheme affordable.
That drew criticism from the JWT, which pointed out Oxford City Council’s planning policy says that 50 per cent of homes in new developments should be affordable, unless a developer can prove it is not financially viable.
The community centre comes as part of a wider plan to redevelop the Jericho Wharf into a public “piazza” in front of St Barnabas Church, also bordered by a cafe, restaurant, boatyard facility and terraced housing.
This week the trust also said it hoped to bring the public square into community ownership after it was finished.
In a newsletter to residents, the Jericho Community Association said: “Critical for the development is the public square, which will need to be carefully controlled to make it an attractive and well-used space.
“For this purpose it has to be managed, and preferably owned, by the community. This is also currently being discussed with SIAHAF.”
The JWT will meet tomorrow to discuss the SIAHAF offer.
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