Beaulieu Community Centre
Following the easing of COVID restrictions, Countryside caught up with Emma Smith, office administrator at the Beaulieu Community Centre, to find out what makes Beaulieu so unique. Comprising of stunning new homes supported by brand-new schools, a range of new retail and community facilities, extensive parks and open spaces and transport links in the heart of Chelmsford, Essex, Emma explains how the community centre is such an essential part of this flagship development.
When did the community centre first open?
The centre was officially opened on 28th September 2018. I’ve been working here since the beginning and, initially, I was the only member of staff in the office, but now there’s a great team of four of us.
What role does the community centre play within Beaulieu?
It really is the hub of the community here - it’s right in the centre of Beaulieu Square just off White Hart Lane, the main road from Chelmsford. Everyone comes to us for information, but we also host events here, such as birthday parties, christenings, wedding parties and a range of classes. We have roughly 70 classes a week here, with everything from baby and toddler classes to wellbeing classes which includes yoga and pilates, to karate classes – we like to make sure there’s something for everyone to get involved with.
What changes have you seen over the last three years at Beaulieu?
The development has grown rapidly since we opened three years ago with further facilities opening alongside us at Beaulieu Square. In particular the opening of The Beaulieu Park Primary and Secondary School, two new nurseries and the Kip McGrath Education Centre and a very popular independent coffee shop. We also have a brilliant Sainsbury’s local as well as a Costa, Dominos, Churchills, vets and dentist all of which opened as part of the first phase of Beaulieu Square - the number of houses in the development have significantly increased too. It’s great because it went from nothing being here to suddenly a really vibrant atmosphere and experiencing a community forming.
Who uses the community centre and the retail outlets?
Beaulieu is essentially a mini community and it’s a popular place for people both within the development and from outside the development to spend time. You see a lot of people visiting Beaulieu as there’s nothing like it in other areas of Chelmsford, especially in terms of its facilities. The primary school here is very popular and the secondary school is over-subscribed, so it gives you an idea of the popularity. You can walk around the beautiful parks within the development, grab a coffee from Coffee Squared and join an afternoon class at the community centre – there are not many places that you can do all those things, and for residents, within the proximity of your home.
Which are the busiest outlets?
I’d say Sainsbury’s is definitely one, it’s a fantastic Sainsbury’s Local store which is open until 11pm and you can get everything you’d need from there. Coffee Squared, which is across the road from us at the community centre, is a family owned and run business - they serve hot drinks, as well as delicious food and ice cream, plus they do weekly pizza nights which are very popular with the residents. I’d also say us, the community centre, our classes are extremely popular with residents and those in the wider community and it’s been great to see everyone return now that the government’s social restrictions have gone.
Is there a strong sense of community in Beaulieu?
Yes, definitely. The range and mix of house types here also means there’s a diverse community. We predominantly see a lot of families and young couples here - it’s very family orientated - you see the mothers drop their children off at school, have a coffee and go to a yoga class and at the weekends the parks are very busy with residents. There’s also a skate park for older children which has been very popular. We’ve seen a lot of people move from London where they can get more for their money.
What do you like about working at Beaulieu and how does it compare?
When I first started working here my first daughter was only a year old. Previously I had been working in a very stressful role for a global company which required a lot of travelling and I just couldn’t sustain being a working mum. Working at Beaulieu completely changed my work/life balance, it’s amazing. I now work part time, opposite the nursery where my daughters are enrolled and I can continue to work with all these amenities around me and remain close to home.
What do you think is so special about Beaulieu?
My family and I spend a lot of time here. It’s a lovely place to walk – we don’t live in the development, but we walk over three or four times a week because of the parks - they are honestly some of the best parks in Chelmsford. We are very lucky and spoilt for choice - Martin Payne, Community Engagement Officer, and his team, are fantastic at keeping the green open spaces well maintained for everyone to enjoy. You can spend most of the day here with the family – go to Coffee Squared for an ice cream, buy your favourite snacks from Sainsburys and go for a picnic. Countryside has been great at incorporating green open spaces into the development – no other developments incorporate green space to the same extent and they are so important. If I were to move to a development it would definitely be to Beaulieu or another Countryside development, for that reason.