Work set to start on creating new £1m health and community hub at Barton Neighbourhood Centre

By Sarah Edwards

Oxford City Council is set to start work on creating a new £1m health and community hub at Barton Neighbourhood Centre.

The work, which starts tomorrow (27/3), will see the neighbourhood centre, in Underhill Circus, transformed to create new facility for existing and new residents of Barton.

Barton Neighbourhood Centre, which opened in 1992, currently features a GP surgery, community café, community hall, sports hall, advice centre, police office, youth club and other services and facilities.

The £940,000 investment will see:
· The GP surgery triple in size. Offices, currently used by Oxford City Council staff, will be transformed into three new consulting rooms, two new group and counselling rooms, a new staffroom and kitchen area, new record storage space, and a new external access
· A new entrance and foyer area will be built to create a brighter and more welcoming entrance to the neighbourhood centre. The brickwork will be re-plastered and painted, new windows will be installed, and new signs will be installed to make the facility easier to use for those with dementia
· The sports hall refurbished. The hall’s lighting and heating systems will be replaced, and the facility will be deep cleaned and repainted
· The toilets refurbished, with new fixtures and fittings
· The lighting throughout the community centre will be upgraded to be energy efficient
· Six garages in Underhill Circus will be demolished to create additional parking spaces for the GP surgery

The aim is to turn Barton Neighbourhood Centre into a health and community hub that hosts a range of support services for the health and wellbeing needs of existing and new Barton residents.

The new Barton Neighbourhood Centre aims to compliment the Barton new housing development, which has been designed to embed health and wellbeing into the fabric of the community, which is why it was recognised at one of NHS England’s Healthy New Towns.

The new Barton housing development features streets that are designed for walking and cycling, a network of parks and green spaces, outdoor gym equipment, sports facilities, improved allotments, and homes designed for whole lifetimes.

The Barton Healthy New Town project is also overseeing a range of grants provided to local community groups and health professionals to help address health inequalities, encourage healthy lifestyles and find innovative and local solutions.

Government data shows that part of Barton is amongst the 10 per cent most deprived communities in England and Wales. Men who live in the ward die, on average, 10.8 years younger than those who live in the least deprived community in Oxford.

The Barton Neighbourhood Centre redevelopment has been funded by pooling together a range of budgets to enable a holistic approach, including:
· £200,000 of Section 106 funding from the new housing development at Barton for GP and health provision
· £170,000 of Section 106 funding from the new housing development at Barton for indoor leisure use
· £150,000 of funding as part of the City Council’s £3.9m ‘Investing in Barton’ scheme to regeneration programme for the existing Barton community
· £420,000 as part of the City Council’s community centre regeneration budget

The redevelopment will be completed in the autumn. The neighbourhood centre will remain open during the majority of the work to minimise the impact on services and users.

Oxford City Council is currently in talks with Barton Community Association to agree a 25-year lease to manage the new neighbourhood centre.

The work follows the construction of the £4m Rose Hill Community Centre, which opened in 2016. The City Council is currently working on multi-million pound improvements to East Oxford Community Centre and Blackbird Leys Community Centre.

Councillor Dee Sinclair, Executive Board Member for Communities, said: “The redevelopment will create a vibrant and welcoming new health and community hub in the heart of Barton that will bring the existing and new community together and meet their community, health and wellbeing needs.”

Sue Holden, Secretary of Barton Community Association, said: “The refurb taking place at Barton Neighbourhood Centre will clearly illustrate the benefits of joint partnership working between Barton Community Association and Oxford City Council.

“Although there will be some general disruption during the refurb period this is inevitable if we all want to reach the end result which will give us access to a much improved facility.

“Once completed the Centre will benefit the whole community and will be a welcoming and more inviting venue to visit. It will also allow BCA to have a far more visible presence within the community.”