A COMMUNITY hub in Whitley has become an essential part of the neighbourhood within its first year.
South Reading Community Hub first opened its doors in June 2018 and is already a popular meeting place for a variety of different groups and provides a range of services for local people.
Reading Borough Council is investing £2 million in community hubs which bring libraries, children’s centres and community facilities together in one place.
Users of the hub joined staff and councillors to celebrate the first birthday of the public facility on Tuesday 25th June.
South Reading Community Hub was officially opened on 26th June last year following a major six-month renovation and expansion of the old South Reading Community Centre.
The hub in Northumberland Avenue includes a home for Whitley Library, an improved children’s centre operated by Brighter Futures for Children, Sure Start Whitley Day Nursery, community meeting space and a vibrant community café and social club run by the local community. Whitley Community Development Association (WCDA) is also based at the café.
Trisha Bennett, Community Development Co-ordinator at WCDA , said:
“The hub has made such a difference to enabling different organisations to work seamlessly in partnership with the community in Whitley.
“The social club and cafe hosts a number of groups as well as being the focal point for advice and information for all members of the community. The cafe is open to the public daily (except Thursday & Sunday) and offers affordable meals and drinks as well as great company for all ages, it has become a regular meeting point in the heart of the community for friends old and new.”
The library has seen a big increase in footfall since moving to the new community hub and it shares its space with several other users of the hub. For example, the Tiny Talkers group sees families attending the weekly session at the Children’s Centre before moving onto the library to encourage speech, language and early literacy skills for children.
More than 20 different groups benefit from the South Reading hub space including Berkshire Welfare Rights, Reading Stroke Association, Age Concern, Connect & Play Toddler’s Activity Group and The Kingsley Organisation for adults with physical and learning difficulties.
Karen Giles, Reading Community Welfare Rights Manager, said:
“From what I see, the hub is an essential part of the local community and it is good to see the local people use it.”
Elli Walker, of Connect & Play toddler group, said:
“It has been fantastic seeing how our group has grown over time and how the hub has helped facilitate more links with different organisations that operate in the space.”
Southcote Community Hub also opened in 2018 and will be celebrating its first birthday in October. Battle Library is currently undergoing major works and will open as a new community hub for west Reading in the late summer. Work on upgrading Sun Street Youth & Community Centre to a new hub for east Reading will start in the winter.
Cllr Sophia James, Lead Councillor for Neighbourhoods and Communities, said:
“The aim of the community hubs is to bring services together in one convenient place for local people, along with decent meeting spaces for local groups.
“I am thrilled that our community hub in South Reading has had such a great first year with the different groups and services working together to provide a brilliant facility for local people.
“The community hubs have also allowed us to keep our libraries open, while many have closed around the country due to budget cuts, and make the best use of our council buildings.
“I would like to congratulate everyone involved in South Reading Community Hub for making it such a big success in its first year.”