It was the Health and Wellbeing event in the Beacon last weekend so I spent most of the day in what is the only Council owned and managed Community Hall in Wantage.
The terminology these days seems to be to call such buildings “community hubs” but that implies that it is a welcoming public place where people can get together and the Beacon is not.
It is a facility in which you can hire a room or hold an event.
It used to have a coffee bar, but the District Councillors decided that it wasn’t cost effective to re-open it after the pandemic so you can’t get any refreshments in the Beacon.
There isn’t even a water fountain and the nearest café is 250 metres away.
A café in the building would have a captive audience of those attending classes, events or meetings in the Beacon.
As part of the planning for the event last Saturday we approached one of the local coffee vans to see if they would provide some refreshments just outside the Beacon.
They were happy to but the van couldn’t be parked on the patio because it would have restricted the fire exits and the District Council Car parks wouldn’t allow it to be placed in the car park so we had to abandon that idea.
It seems to me that the District Council is trying to close the Beacon by stealth.
I understand that the Manager of the Beacon is also the Manager of the Cornerstone in Didcot so you can easily see where his or her priorities lie.
The Cornerstone has its own café even though it is in the centre of Didcot and the nearest café is less than 50 metres away.
Most groups now hire any of the church halls in Wantage rather than the Beacon or hold their events in Grove.
There will be a new “Community Hub” on the Kingsgrove development although it will not be owned or managed by either the District or Wantage Town Council.
There will also be another community hub on Wellington Gate in Grove.
So is Wantage town centre still the hub of the local community?
The temporary pedestrianisation of the west end of the Market Place has now become permanent so the three cafes/bars in that area would like to tell you that it is the centre of the town.
The Beacon (what used to be Wantage Civic Centre) is not.