A picture of some shops, with cars parked out in front.

Collective partnership support opens new opportunities for Westside Community Association

An empty shop on Kings Road, Basingstoke, owned by SNG (Sovereign Network Group), is getting a facelift so it’s ready to give the Westside Community Association a base to continue to provide much valued community activities for residents in South Ham and the local area.  

Westside Community Centre, in Paddock Road, closed after reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete (RAAC) panels were found in both South Ham Community Library, owned by Hampshire County Council, and Westside Community Centre, owned by Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council.  

Since the closure of the building, SNG and Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council have worked together with the community association to relocate many of the centre’s vital services and offer this exciting new opportunity. The converted empty shop will be offered rent free by SNG to provide the community association with a shop front to extend its charitable operations – offering a different way to deliver much valued services to local people. Westside Community Association is now developing a business plan to re-introduce services in the shop such as the food pantry with a community café. 

Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council will give support to Westside Community Association until September 2024, to ensure that is able to continue to provide valuable services to the communities of South Ham and Buckskin. 

The refurbishment is being organised through SNG’s partnership with developer The Hill Group – the Sovereign Hill Partnership. 

Tom Titherington, SNG’s Chief Investment & Development Officer, said: ”We received many comments during the ‘Shaping the future of Buckskin and South Ham’ engagement about this much-loved community centre.  

“It is clear how vital the services it provides are to the community, and how valuable a space where the community can meet is, and we are pleased to be able to offer the help in the short-term and continue to work with Westside, the local community and the borough council to secure its long-term future as we look at wider options and opportunities for investment in the neighbourhood.”  

Alongside this support, long term solutions for Westside Community Centre will be explored. The lasting aim is to make sure the community association can continue to generate income and grow from strength to strength. 

The borough council’s Cabinet Member for Communities, Partnerships and Inclusion Cllr John McKay said: “We would like to thank Westside Community Association for everything it is doing to continue running vital services for the community and residents in South Ham for continuing to support the community association. 

“Alongside our continued support, we hope the new space provided by Sovereign Network Group will help the community association to get back on its feet and earn more income so it can open up more services in the heart of South Ham to support residents of all ages in the community.” 

Chairman of Westside Community Association Deborah McDermott said: "The team at Westside Community Association are delighted with the extended support we have been given during this challenging time. We’ve had to look at different ways of working to ensure as many services as possible remain available, and this has opened up new opportunities to continue to offer the community our much-valued support. 

“With the help and support from Sovereign Network Group and Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council, we are excited to start planning the facilities we will be able to offer directly from the parade of shops on Kings Road, in the coming months.”