Save Our Space & Petersfield Area Community Trust response to joint Methodist & CIC Press Release of 28th September 2015. Comment was requested by the Cambridge News and we felt the need to share our response with supporters.
We are disappointed by the sale of the Sturton Street Chapel & Hall to an educational institution.
The key problem in Petersfield is the lack of any space where community uses are the priority – as it was on this site previously, much like the similarly lost Howard Mallett Centre at the other end of Sturton Street.
The draft Local Plan restricts new specialist educational institutions in the city but since this site is already in “D1” use (for community use as well as non-residential education), Cambridge Islamic College (CIC) sidesteps the proposed restrictions. This is particularly detrimental in Petersfield, a dense residential area which is already home to Anglia Ruskin University and where pressure on accommodation, parking, and so on, is intense.
Members of SOS did meet on two occasions with representatives of CIC but felt their vision, at the time, was incompatible with community needs (in simple use of space and hours). We also discounted any possibility of partnership with CIC since the Methodist Connexional Team informed us that in terms of buyers “non-Christian faiths eg: Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, Quaker etc” were not acceptable.*
We remain happy to talk to anyone about community provision.
We are saddened that the sealed & confidential bidding processes used by the Methodist Church did not offer the community bid the same generous timescale and flexible arrangements afforded to CIC. We have no doubt that the community bid could have been raised to the same level, given the huge strength of local feeling.
The Petersfield Area Community Trust is a registered charity for the benefit of the local community.
*(contemporaneous notes of phone discussion with Facilities and Property coordinator, 26 March 2015).