Stowford centre after 17 years

MONEY from the £60 million sale of Exeter Airport will realise a 17-year-long dream to provide a community and children s centre at Stowford Rise, Sidmouth.

MONEY from the £60 million sale of Exeter Airport will realise a 17-year-long dream to provide a community and children's centre at Stowford Rise, Sidmouth.

A bid for £250,000 to Devon County Council's Investing in Devon committee, made by Sidmouth, Sidford county councillor Stuart Hughes, has been successful.

"This is brilliant news for the local residents," said Mr Hughes, who put together the bid with EDDC's head of housing John Golding.

"A facility such as this will put the heart into the community. This successful bid for airport funding will ensure this centre will now be built and I am elated."

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Conditions are attached. It is subject to the correct project appraisal form being complete and accessibility for Early Years for at least 25 years.

But, said Mr Hughes: "I hope work will start as soon as possible. I would like to see the centre up and running within the next 18 months.

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Presenting the bid he said: "It has long been recognised that this area of Sidmouth needs a flexible multi-use community facility.

"A community centre would do much for the place-shaping of the neighbourhood and increase 'social capital' invested into community-based activities.

"It would have a positive impact on community safety and social inclusion."

He told the Herald: "I am delighted I had the support of the Early Years team and as a result of the successful bid the centre will also be the home of a Children's Centre for Sidmouth."

He remembers pushing a piano with Stowford residents from Exmouth to Sidmouth in 1991 to raise money for the centre "then being ducked on a ducking stool on the very land set aside for the community centre."

Sidmouth Town Council is holding £20,300 to go towards the centre. Some of this was raised by residents and some through the Woolley Trust.

Former chairman, the late Frank Lock, opened fundraising by putting £100 into the kitty.

The centre, which will have a 200-seat venue "the biggest in Sidmouth" will be built on land set aside for community use at Stowford Rise and will not affect the agreed extension to Waitrose or plans to provide a further 150 new homes; 99 affordable, on district council land.

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