AN ambitious £2m project to revamp Lymington Community Centre has been given the go-ahead by New Forest District Council.
Plans for the New Street building include a single-storey extension, outdoor play area and a new lift, with work already under way to relocate the centre’s resident pre-school in time for the new term in September.
The scheme, which was allowed by NFDC planners earlier this month, also includes upgrading the main entrance with a spacious new foyer, landscaping the square at the front, and a new ground-floor reception area.
Centre manager Rachel Smith explained the pre-school will relocate from the Normandy room to the larger Robert Hole room so its capacity can be increased from 24 to 32 youngsters and they can enjoy direct access to an outdoor play area.
Half of £160,000 cost of this work has been met by a pledge from Lymington and Pennington Town Council.
She said: “This move is also an essential pre-requisite for later phases of the development programme which involve substantial building work next to the Normandy Room and, in the longer term, conversion of the current play area to an open air-terrace serving the Malt Theatre and a rebuilt Malt Café.”
Work to install a new lift at a cost of £140,000 has been put on hold until summer 2021 because of manufacturing delays.
Ms Smith said: “Both projects would create substantial disruption to the life of the centre and ideally would be carried out in parallel during the summer months when the centre is relatively quiet, and the pre-school is closed.”
Under the plans, a new eight-person lift, with additional space for wheelchairs, will link the upper and lower levels of the centre and a recently installed basement pottery.
Ms Smith said: “The existing lift, which only links the entrance lobby and first floor, is small and slow by current standards.”
A report from NFDC planning officer Stephen Belli said concerns about the impact of the new lift shaft on the conservation area were overcome after negotiations between conservation officers and the scheme’s designers.
It concluded: “The proposed extension works are discreetly located to the rear of the building and will have no adverse impact on either the conservation area or the setting of the listed building.”
The redevelopment is part of Lymington Community Association’s wider plans for the site, which aims to increase income and decrease maintenance costs by joining up the separate buildings.
The Celebrating 70 project – which marks the 70th anniversary of the facility – has a budget of about £2m.
The centre received a major fundraising boost when Lymington and Pennington Town Council pledged £900,000 from a £1.7m windfall grant it received from Pennyfarthing Homes for a development in Alexandra Road at Buckland.
However, the grant is dependent on match-funding, so a £1m fundraising target was set. Ms Smith said: “The association’s fundraising efforts have not stopped and will continue as soon as possible.”