`

New ‘Blue Box’ community centre in Belper moves closer

An artist's impression of the new Blue Box community centre
An artist's impression of the new Blue Box community centre

The prospect of a new community centre to replace the beloved Blue Box in Belper is one step closer.

Councillors on Amber Valley Borough Council’s cabinet agreed on Wednesday to lease land near the Manor Recreation Ground play area to a charity for 30 years.

The aim of the Blue Box Group, a band of community volunteers, is to rebuild a community centre on the site to provide members of the nearby Parks Estate, and the wider area, with an activity, learning and meeting venue.

Coun Kevin Buttery, Conservative leader of the borough council, said: “I am certainly happy to give them (Blue Box Group) this opportunity.”

Coun Ben Bellamy (Labour) said: “This is very welcome support for the Blue Box, and I hope that in the future, whoever is in charge of this council can find further support for them.”

Councillors agreed that providing services to the disadvantaged and for communities such as those near the Parks Estate in Belper was something that has full cross-party support.

Coun Chris Short, cabinet member for the environment, said: “I have been involved in this project since day one and I recognise the fact that people who live on the Parks Estate are reluctant to spread further to go to facilities. But building this on their doorstep would give them that opportunity.”

Coun Paul Hillier said the lease would be vital to allowing the project to move forward and said that while the council could not put forward money at this stage, it would hope to be able to do so in the future.

The former community building on the site was a prefabricated block and was painted bright blue, which led to the name ‘The Blue Box’.

It was owned by the borough council, but was used by Derbyshire County Council’s Youth Services, to provide outreach activities to youngsters in the area.

However, following an arson attack in 2014 the building had to be demolished in 2015, resulting in the facility being lost to the community.

Since the loss of the original building, the Blue Box Group - originally formed in 2012 - has been seeking to fundraise to provide a replacement building.

The charity has since raised £40,000 for the project and has already begun setting up activities and projects which would be re-housed in the proposed community centre.