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A community centre left to the people of High Wycombe – which was opened by Princess Diana more than 25 years ago – could be replaced by a Cuban restaurant and nightclub.

Plans have emerged to transform the Reggie Goves Centre in Paul’s Row, next to O’Neill’s pub, into a Club Havana restaurant and café – which is expected to facilitate up to 600 people at a time.

However the plans have attracted criticism by residents who fear community centres are becoming a thing of the past and restaurants are beginning to overtake the town centre.

Former mayor of High Wycombe, Frances Alexander, fears the proposals could be a step back for the community as Princess Diana “opened it for the people of High Wycombe.” She said: “We have so many restaurants in High Wycombe.

“People say there are plenty of places to go in the town centre, but there aren’t many places you can rent a cheap room and hold a do. There is the Oak Room but that is expensive.

“Reggie Goves was designed for ordinary people to hold an ordinary do. It worries me that we have one going after another.”

“People want to feel part of the community, they want to be a part of their own town. This is what concerns me.

“To have an enterprise is not right for local people.”

Mrs Alexander went on to describe former mayor of High Wycombe, Reggie Goves, as a “wonderful and inspiring man” who “cared dearly” for his hometown.

She added: “I was running the Open Art Exhibition for Wycombe one year and we asked him to come and open it for us.

“He wanted to know all about it and all about the people there. He gave a lovely talk about how wonderful it was to have a community was glad the centre was named after him.”

The complex was closed down in 2014 in a bid to save Wycombe District Council £92,000 – sparking an outcry in the community – and it has been empty ever since.

If plans are given the green light the building will be “rejuvenated” to mimic the Cuban architectural style using pastel colours such as light yellow, blue and pink, according to the design and access statement.

A total of 309 readers backed the new plans in an online poll, which ran on the Bucks Free Press, for 24-hours, compared with 143 votes opposing the proposals. 

High Wycombe’s business group, HWBIDCo, backed plans and said a nightclub is a “clever proposition” and would add to the town centres flourishing night life.

Chief executive of HWBIDCo chief executive, Oliver O’Dell, said: “HWBIDCo would welcome a flexible venue, such as the one proposed, to the town centre. 

“There has been a recent resurgence in the night-time economy of the town with new venues opening outside of Eden attracting a broader clientele.

“Paul’s Row has definitely become a more important destination area, proven by the success of the independent businesses such as Bluegrass and The Snug, and the recent re-brand and refurbishment of Noodle Nation.

“Heidrun have added to the offer recently and the Cuban proposal would do so again.”

The plans form part of Wycombe District Council’s Old Town Renewal project which has seen the addition of a number of new venues, including The Works, Yes Please Gold and Mad Squirrel into the town centre.

Spokesman for Wycombe District Council, Simon Farr, said: “Club Havana will be an excellent addition to the bars and restaurants available in High Wycombe, and we are pleased our Old Town Renewal project continues to reinvigorate the town centre by giving a new lease of life to vacant buildings.

“In this case, further improving High Wycombe’s night time economy in a bustling part of the town centre and, at the same time, generating a new revenue stream for the council to support key services in the face of dwindling financial support from central government.”

If the opening times are approved the venue will be open until 2am from Sunday to Wednesday then 3am from Thursday to Saturday.

To view the plans visit