Whitnash Civic Centre and Library declared open

Whitnash Civic Centre and Library has been declared open after completion by Deeley Construction.

Whitnash Mayor, Cllr Adrian Barton, in the presence of honoured guests including the Mayors of Kenilworth, Warwick, and Leamington, leader of Warwick District Council, Andrew Day, chairman of Warwick District Council, Cllr Neale Murphy, joint project leader, Cllr Judy Falp, representatives from Deeley Construction, and members of the Library Service all attended the opening ceremony.

The building of the much-anticipated £2.5 million Civic Centre and Library for Whitnash is complete. The new centre includes a multi-use sports hall, the Whitnash Library, a brand-new community café, a meeting /conference room, and offices for Whitnash Town Council.

Bringing all these facilities together under one roof represents a major improvement for the town, and the new sports hall is significantly larger than the old community centre hall, which has served the town since the mid-1970s.

This project represents a major investment and is built on years of hard work, vision and teamwork needed to create a modern Civic Centre and Library fit for the future of a growing and changing town.

Whitnash was the first town in the district to have its own Neighbourhood Plan approved and adopted. This was thanks largely to long term Whitnash Residents Association District councillor, Judy Falp, who chaired the Neighbourhood Plan working group of town councillors and local residents, together with a consulting company, who developed the detail of the plan. The plan was then put to a local referendum and approved.

One of the main priorities to come out of the Neighbourhood Plan was the need for a new community centre and library. The existing community centre was deemed to be past its use-by date, and there was concern that the existing library could be forced to close in the longer term. The current library also housed the Town Council office facilities, and so the council would also have had to relocate in the event of the library closing.

Once the plan had been approved, the Town Council set about investigating what would be needed to make the aspiration for a new community centre a reality. A working group was set up, led by Cllrs Tony Heath and Judy Falp, that involved town councillors, the council office team, representatives of Warwick District Council, Warwickshire County Council, other local community groups, and consultants ATI Projects, to try to define what the project might look like, and how much it was likely to cost.

This was a project very close to Cllr Tony Heath’s heart. As a long term Whitnash councillor and resident, as well as being one of the founding members of the Whitnash Residents Association, Tony had long had an ambition to see the aging 1970s community centre replaced with something better for the future. He spoke about it during his time as Whitnash Mayor as long ago as 2001/2.

The working group, together with architects Bailey Garner, came up with several schemes, one of which was selected to be the final design of building. The scheme has been funded thanks to contributions from Warwick District Council, Sport England, Warwickshire Country Council and also a public works loan. An online crowdfunding initiative raised an additional £20k for external elements such as landscaping, parking, and bike racks etc.

In his speech before cutting the ribbon, Cllr Adrian Barton paid tribute to all those who had been involved, especially his colleague and mentor Tony Heath, who sadly passed away a couple of months ago, and never got to see the fruits of his labour over many years finally finished.

Cllr Barton also thanked the many organisations that had been involved in helping to make the project a reality, including Warwick District Council, Warwickshire County Council, and developers Deeley Construction. He also paid tribute to the Whitnash Town Council office staff, who had been involved in the project from start to finish, and also to Cllr Judy Falp, who along with Tony Heath, had worked so tirelessly on the project for so many years.

Cllr Judy Falp then spoke to pay tribute to former Whitnash councillor, Bernard Kirton, who sadly passed away last year. Bernard had been a formidable force in Whitnash over several decades, setting up the Whitnash Ratepayers Association (latterly the Whitnash Residents Association) with Tony Heath following a fall out with the local Labour Party in the 1970s. She went on to mention that Bernard arrived in Whitnash in the 1960s, and was met by a town with very few, if any, facilities. Over the years, he fought to improve facilities, and the opening of the new Civic Centre and Library is a continuation of that drive and passion for the town.

Bernard Kirton is honoured in the new Civic Centre by having the new meeting/conference room named after him.

Cllr Falp unveiled the plaque on the door to the room, together with Bernard’s son, Mark.

Before the dignitaries and public were allowed to look around the new building, Cllr Barton had one more duty to perform. With Tony Heath’s family present, Cllr Barton spoke again about Cllr Heath’s involvement in the project, and unveiled a plaque over the door to the new community hall itself, which named the hall after Cllr Heath as a recognition of all the work he had done to make the project happen.

The sports hall has two badminton courts for hire, but is also available to hire as a space for classes and groups, and for hosting shows, plays and gigs. Many local exercise groups have already signed up to hire the hall. The meeting room will also be available for hire to the public and will be suitable for hosting meetings, team building, interviews or hot desking. The room has a large screen to show presentations, and will have a high-speed internet connection.

Independent cafe operator Blenz Café will be operating the new café within the Civic Centre building. This is a brand-new venture for Charlotte, a local resident, who is thrilled to have the opportunity to bring her enterprise to life. She will be serving speciality coffee, tea and soft drinks, and sourdough toasties along with pastries and cakes.

As part of the project, the two football pitches and rugby pitch at Acre Close Park have been reseeded and renovated, although these will not be available until next year once they have been established. The skate ramp has also been moved and improved, along with the Whitnash wheel of fitness outdoor exercise equipment. Whitnash Town Council are also working to secure a grant to reinstate the measured mile at Washbourne Fields in the near future.

To can also view time-lapse photography showing how the build progressed and for more information visit www.whitnashciviccentre.uk