Work starts on Stowford Community Centre build

Sale of Exeter Airport “golden opportunity” to secure funds for long-awaited centre

IT has taken 19 years, but Stowford Rise Community Centre will be a reality by next August.

Last Tuesday, the first turf was cut by Sidmouth, Sidford Devon County Councillor Stuart Hughes, marking the start of building work by Pollard contractors.

The �1million project had a wobbly start when first mooted in 1991. Then, three years ago, with the sale of Exeter Airport, the project was resurrected.

A partnership between town, district and county councils, with local charities and businesses, saw the chance to make the dream a reality.

Mr Hughes said: “It was a golden opportunity. We’ve had hurdles along the way, it didn’t seem we would have enough funds, but I am absolutely delighted. I have been pushing for this since 1991.

“It shows if you have a goal then go for it, because eventually you will reap the rewards.”

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Surestart approved a Children’s Centre there after Manstone Youth Centre decided not to move there and DCC secured money through Surestart as well as contributing �250,000 through the Invest in Devon fund.

East Devon District Council provided the land and secured, through planning funds, �200,000 from Waitrose and �81,000 from Devon and Cornwall Housing.

Sidmouth Town Council provided funding and support for the project, and will take on the freehold of the land from EDDC. Trustees will own the building.

Chairman, Councillor Peter Sullivan, said: “The land has always been for a community centre and finally it is coming to fruition. This is a big day because now it has finally happened.

“The community will benefit from this, the Children’s Centre and PCT will all be under one roof and the hall will be the biggest hall in Sidmouth and people will be able to put on events other people can’t accommodate.

“I think it is very positive the town council is taking some leadership in it.”

Chairman and founder of the board of trustees is Councillor Christine Drew. A community group is actively raising funds for internal fittings and has already raised around �3,000.

Baker Close resident Jan Jones, worked on fundraising in the ‘90s and is a director with the trustees.

She said: “It is fantastic that the build is about to start. It is hard work to get people enthusiastic because they have been waiting 19 years. Now I think the community will be more interested in fundraising.

“It is needed by the community and we hope to run a community caf� there.”

Delighted to have been chosen to build the centre, Bill Badham, managing director of Pollard, said: “We fully appreciate the value of these community facilities and how they enhance people’s lives.”