Issue 44 — September 1999
for canal site
Jericho's canal frontage could become a high-quality public space - with
a new Community Centre.
The canalside site owned by British Waterways has been in limbo since the demise of Orchard Cruisers in 1993. British Waterways initially planned residential development, but failed to complete a deal with a developer.
Meanwhile in 1997 they let some land temporarily to the Rosamund the Fair floating restaurant. Later, in conjunction with Rosamund Catering, the boating community started using part of the land for boat repairs.
Rosamund's owner, Tim Matthews then devised a new plan for the site that would include a land-based restaurant, a boatyard and housing. George Taylor, Vice-Chair of the Jericho Community Association, proposed that the development should also include a new purpose-built Community Centre that would better serve local needs, including, for example, a gym. George and Tim met with British Waterways, who declared themselves open to the idea of a mixed development. British Waterways also now have a 'Partnership with the People' policy that involves wider public participation. They gave the group until the end of September to prove the plan could be financially viable, and for this purpose Tim engaged a London-based developer, Metropolitan and County.
The current Jericho St. Barnabas Community Centre in Canal Street is owned by the Church, and leased to the City Council. They in turn lease it to the Jericho Community Association which finances it primarily by letting out some of the rooms for offices and classes. While the building has provided a valuable community focus it is showing its age and is in need of repair. A lottery application to finance an upgrade, however, failed in 1997. Now the Church Trustees are having second thoughts about renewing the lease after 2005. But Father Michael Wright, the Vicar of St. Barnabas, says that the Church Trustees might be willing to use some of the proceeds of a sale or a redevelopment to help build a new Community Centre. The City Council too has said it hopes to make a contribution as well as helping with applications to other sources of funds. The doctors at the Jericho Health Centre, who are short of space in their current building, also expressed an interest in taking some space.
In July a first meeting of the 'Jericho Canalside Development Group' at the Community Centre brought together representatives of the developers, Rosamund Catering, the Community Centre, the Council, the Church, the boating community, and the Health Centre. This was chaired by Nigel Hiscock of Great Clarendon Street who emphasized that this site is in the heart of our community with St. Barnabas Church serving as a central powerful landmark. Jericho also has historic links with the canal. It was vital that the development benefited the community and enhanced the area.
Subsequently the developers presented the Group with an outline plan. This included a bridge, a boatyard, a residential zone, a community centre, and a public square around the church. They pointed out that St. Barnabas was modelled on a church near Venice, so it would be good to echo the Venetian setting by having the building set in a square with public access. This could involve removing the walls around the church. They also suggested including a semi-pedestrianized section of Canal Street.
Any such plan will only work if British Waterways accepts the bid for the land. So a lot will depend on making the development financially viable - and on how much British Waterways wants for the land. Even if the bid is accepted, there is still a long way to go, and much community consultation lies ahead. We will have to consider what we think the new development should include and also what kind of Community Centre we need. A centre that included multipurpose rooms and offices could cost around £750,000. Car parking as ever is an issue. Any housing development could, for example be stipulated to have no parking, though this might reduce its value. Another question surrounds the lock-up garages in Dawson Place. These are owned by the Council but including that land would free up crucial extra space. Further details on the current status of the proposals will be available at the Community Centre.