A former community centre near the heart of Bishop Auckland is set to be transformed into a social enterprise and creativity hub that supports adults with learning disabilities and autism.
Dorset Place community centre, near Watling Road in the town, is set to be transformed in a £125,000 investment by Bridge Creative. County Durham-based believe housing is to transfer ownership of the building to provide a base for Bridge Creative and bring the building back into a community use.
The community interest company has been searching for a home in the area for two years. Once completed, the new centre will provide a permanent base for Bridge Creative to continue its employment support for adults with learning disabilities and autism, offering work experience opportunities and supporting people into paid employment in the events, arts and creative industries. The organisation already supports around 160 people in County Durham, the new premises will allow them to increase their offer in the south of the county.
In their new home Bridge Creative will support 10 young adults with learning disabilities and or autism to complete a traineeship as part of the refurbishment, working alongside contractors and tradespeople to renovate the building, gaining real work experience and a nationally-recognised qualification.
The centre will also include five affordable spaces for local social enterprises, charitable organisations, and creative businesses, as well as a commercial kitchen, and co-working space with individual pods.
Fay Metha from believe housing said: “Bridge Creative do some great work across County Durham, when they approached us during their search for a base we were determined to see if we could find a solution.
“The building at Dorset Place has been unused for a while so transferring ownership to Bridge Creative is a great way of bringing it back into community use. It will also provide a brilliant new resource for the community that I’m sure will be really well used.”
Bridge Creative secured funding The North East LEP, Power To Change’s Bright Ideas Fund, The Gaunless Gateway Big Local Partnership, The Screwfix Foundation and The School for Social Entrepreneurs to make the project possible.
Ben Tinkler, Managing Director of Bridge Creative said: “We’re very excited to finally announce the plans for our new building. It’ll be great for the local area and for the people we support and will provide many opportunities for people with learning disabilities and autism to access meaningful paid employment.
“Homeworking is also expected to continue beyond the pandemic so we think the co-working space will be particularly popular with people wanting to work from somewhere other than their bedroom. It’s took almost two years to get to this stage so we just can’t wait to get started.”
Physical works are expected to start in June and will include accessibility improvements including widened doors for wheelchair users and the installation of a lift to make the first floor accessible.
The aim is to offer affordable and flexible space that will benefit the local community and provide opportunities for the people Bridge Creative supports.