It is now two years since we opened the refurbished community centre for the people of Speedwell in Bristol. Speedwell is one of the 20% poorest areas in the UK. At its heart is a council housing estate built post-WW2. From a white working class area, it has morphed into a diverse ethnically mixed population. A growth in houses has not been matched by availability of community facilities. Community cohesion, keeping youngsters off the street, and reaching out to isolated elderly people are all major local priorities which the community centre is attempting to address.
The refurbished building was Phase 1 of the project, but it was never going to be large enough to provide the full range of services and facilities which are so badly needed. It needs a community café, spaces where youth groups can get involved in physical activities, community gatherings and parties can happen, a retirement club and a host of other activities.
In 2019 a small community group, supported by Bristol Rotary Club, made an audacious bid for Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) funding. After making the case to the other community groups in St Georges, it was decided to back the Meadow Vale Extension Plan. So we put in our bid and ultimately were invited down to present before the City Council - and we emerged victorious! We secured £200,000. A great start - but this could only be used for construction. We first had to meet the condition set out in the original planning permission that it was safe to build as this was an old coal mining area. So after a major site investigation and drilling bore holes, teh site was declared safe for construction. Subsequently we raised another £15,000 to fund architectural designs, topography and structural engineering work, before a community consultation could take place and then planning permission could be applied for. We will need to raise a further £100,000 to complete the construction and we are preparing some bids to go in once we have secured planning permission.
We are optimistic we will start building in Spring 2021 and have the building completed in the Autumn of 2021. It has been a long haul, but after the long journey to get this far we are resolved that this 120 square metre extension will provide us with a facility adequate to meet the needs of this forgotten and very needy community.
Bristol Rotary Club was a key player in raising the £97,500 required for Phase1, and remains actively involved as one of our members is now the Treasurer of the Community Association and another sits on the committee. Rotary will be raising further funds where it can to support this effort. Additionally, Rotarians from the club are at the ready to help with volunteering to support gardening work, fundraising events and, as we progress ,to become involved in community development initiatives.