With the move of the Adult Education Centre from the old Oakdale School to the Dolphin Centre, we have lost the facilities that were previously used by the Oakdale Residents Community Association, and any wider community use of the site.
Felicity, Pete and Andy all attended the sessions for the public regarding plans for the Extra Care Facility on site, a concept which was broadly supported, but many people spoke about the need to ensure that a Community Room is built into the plans.
We raised the following summary afterwards with Officers, and we will continue to work to ensure that the community in Oakdale are not forgotten.
I attended both of the drop-ins for the proposals for Extra Care Housing at the old Oakdale school site, yesterday and last week, particularly to listen to the public, but also to hear what is proposed.
Many people who attended the school, or sent their children there, feel a significant attachment to the building, but the most important aspect that concerned them was that the lack of any community use, especially for ORCA and the coffee shop facility that have already been driven out, and with no alternative provision planned in the scheme. Oakdale has very little in the way of community facilities, and I did find it rather shocking that the team had no sense or brief on this, as the lack of a plan was highlighted in the 2020 Cabinet report.
In reaction to the many comments about community space, there was a response that a bookable room might be available (definitely not space for a community hall). The need to squeeze 50 units in to make it viable for Extra-Care kept getting repeated.
There was a real feeling that no-one was listening, no notes were being taken, and no opportunity to fill a form and provide feedback. Many of those who turned up are elderly, and one highlighted to me that they “don’t do the internet”. Kerry was showing the webform on her laptop, and she might as well have been highlighting a path to the moon. The space was crammed into the far end of the library, with two officers behind the desk and A4 red line plans of the site. On the first week some elevation images were shown on the laptop screen, but not the second. Only one person or couple could engage with the staff at a time, and everyone else was left queuing and muttering, some chairs were at least provided.
We reflected with another couple that that in many small Dorset rural villages, they have a community hall. It’s the hub of community life, and Oakdale has lost the nearest thing it had to that.
A bookable room, with timing restrictions, and likely pressures to become just for residents use, and definitely not for noisy or messy use would not start to approach that need. BCP Council has expressed ambitions to consider 10 minute walkable neighbourhoods, of which Oakdale is one, and for likely residents of this facility, as well as the wider neighbourhood, having reasonable facilities very close by, and being in an active neighbourhood is really important.
The Supermarket in the stretch of shops opposite has gone, it seems by sleight of hand replaced by flats at ground floor level, where replacement shop units were promised in the original planning permission. To get to the chemists across Wimborne Road is a frightening obstacle course for the frail pedestrian.
In particular, can the Housing team please build into your plans something that recognises the need for this site to incorporate a real community facility. An adaptable space for community use. Perhaps also that includes working with the Leisure department to create a café and outdoor seating area to the South frontage, which could perhaps be community run by ORCA or another group. This would be a boon to the Extra Care residents, visitors to the park, and to the many people in the local community that mourn the loss of use of the hall, and the ability to run function like fetes that spilled out onto the field.
Reference was made to the new design reflecting elements of the locally listed building. Perhaps the community space could incorporate reuse of some of the genuine elements of the façade. Its really important that this is not just a token feature
Other concerns were also raised. Can I also plead that the team think carefully about the space that is being booked for future public engagement, plans in whatever stage of development and ideas that people can browse and see, and the opportunity for people who are passionate about their area to contribute, and to feel that their views are recorded and will count. I do know how difficult it can be to reconcile the many competing demands. Perhaps the lack of available reasonable space for public engagement highlights the current shortfall.