From our Trustee, Stephen Hodge
As many people will know Highgate Newtown Community Partners (HNCP) – of which I am Treasurer – is located in Bertram Street, NW5 (just behind Highgate Library). We have been working together with Camden Council over a number of years to bring forward exciting new plans for the redevelopment of the centre. This will include housing, a new public space and a brand-new community centre for the benefit of local residents. The council has invested over £6 million into building the new facility. This money will be raised by the council building homes for sale on the site of the old centre. During the construction period, HNCP moved out of the building on Bertram Street, and we relocated our activities (including support of older people, children under five, food parcel distribution and subsidised community lunches) to a range of locations in the Archway, Highgate and Dartmouth Park areas. At the time of writing, we have partnerships with Brookfield School in Dartmouth Park, Channing School in Highgate, the United Reformed Church, St Mary’s Dartmouth Park, St Michael’s Highgate and St Anne’s Highgate, where our temporary part-time office is located.
This change has proved beneficial as it is a popular location and has brought us closer to the people we seek to serve. Even after the new centre is completed, we expect to continue in this “distributed and partnership” mode, and we reflect this by having changed our name from Highgate Newtown Community Centre (HNCC) to Highgate Newtown Community Partners (HNCP).
Our new community centre building is expected to be ready for occupation late in 2022. We have agreed in principle with Camden Council to take a 20-year lease on the bottom three floors of the building. The council is offering discounted rent in recognition of our partnership and the council’s commitment to be supportive of HNCP and their value to the community. The picture is an architect’s visualisation of the entrance to the new centre, which will accessible from both Croftdown Road and Bertram Street.
We are raising money to create a welcoming, high-quality facility which brings people together and gives those who struggle financially opportunities they would not have elsewhere. We want people to feel valued when they are in the building, and that they deserve quality. Activities such as our laundry and hairdressers will be offered at cost price and art, pottery, cooking and exercise classes will be either free at the point of access or heavily subsidised for those on lower income. The café will serve fresh, affordable food, enabling those who eat by themselves day after day to share a meal with others. We are working closely with local hostels and schools to make sure that the new community centre building becomes an essential support service for people who find daily life challenging.
The centre will have a sports hall that’s large and adaptable enough to host a range of events such as job fairs and concerts, gym activities, table tennis and community meetings. There will also be several flexible meeting rooms, which can be used for classes or rented out to tenants who will provide benefit to the community. We intend the new centre to be open seven days a week, throughout the day and evening.
It will be clear to all who know us that the new building represents a steep change in the services that HNCP can bring to the community. Apart from the financial requirement, we will need to increase our staffing levels (recruitment will commence in the next few months) and to continue to strengthen our Board of Trustees with people who are willing to take on an active role in the direction of the charity. In the last six months, Tomi Ayodeji has joined our board and we would like to continue this strengthening further.
We expect fitting out the new building to cost up to £600,000, and this is our funding challenge. The council has made significant investment into the new centre, and it was always part of the agreement that the fit-out works would be undertaken by HNCP. We have so far accumulated over £220,000, and now we are on the lookout for funding of the balance from foundations, trusts, families and individuals (which could come with name recognition for funded items or parts of the centre).
If any readers can support us on this journey, or if you know of an organisation who can either contribute to our mission, or who may be interested in working in partnership with us, please get in touch with me, Stephen Hodge, on 0776850299 or by email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Our Annual Report and Audited Accounts to 31st March 2021 were published last month and if you would like to review them and our financial position, please contact me.