The future is bright for Marsh Farm’s ‘Peri Peri’ building

Mohammed Rafi, chief excutive of Luton's Marsh Farm Futures

Mohammed Rafi, chief excutive of Luton's Marsh Farm Futures

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Locals know it as the ‘Peri Peri’ building because of the fast food restaurant that lights it up at night.

But there’s a lot more to Marsh Farm’s Futures House than that.

For a start its chief executive is Mohammed Rafi, the brains behind several renewal programmes including the initial £35 million revamp of London’s Kings Cross.

It’s also a hive of activity from morning till night and boasts everything from the Futures Fun Factory – a soft indoor playpark facility – to free sexual health and legal advice, a drug awareness and crime prevention programme and a community vegetable garden.

In addition it provides affordable and well managed facilities and business units to a range of organisations from the private, public and voluntary sector.

Rafi, 56, is rightfully proud of all that’s been achieved by Marsh Farm Futures, the community organisation and registered charity that took on the legacy of the Marsh Farm Community Development Trust, which ran the New Deal for Communities programme from 2001 to 2011.

He’s buzzing with excitement about long term plans to build new affordable housing on Buckle Close and says experience has shown that successful regeneration sometimes involves risk taking.

“My real passion is working with the community,” he says. ”I love setting up projects that involve local people and listening to what they have to say about cohesion and integration.

“My career over the past 25 years has been devoted to community development and urban regeneration and Marsh Farm Futures had the right feel for me.

“I’ve really enjoyed working with the local people and that’s important if you want to be successful and make a difference. They have lots of stories and you can learn from that.

“We’ve already made some strides and try to give as much help as we can. More than 200 people are employed in the building – a quarter of whom live within a two mile radius – and our business units are now 95 percent let.”

Rafi and his board are currently looking at the next five year plan. Their finances are sound and they don’t rely on handouts from the council or the public sector.

“Our income is generated by rents and contracts with external bodies and we have to pay our bills like everyone else,” he explains.

“More than 17 different groups use our facilities and our average footfall is 120,000 and growing.

“We have a small team of eight staff with a flat structure. I’m very hands-on and I’m still just as excited about the future as I was when I joined eight years ago.”