Wiltshire Publications

‘Everybody in Westbury will be rightly proud’. New centre built on ‘community spirit’

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A COMMUNITY centre for Westbury to be proud of, which has been five years in the making, will get the “razzle dazzle” opening it deserves, project leaders have pledged.

Westbury Community Project chair of trustees and junior school headteacher  Richard Hatt, and project manager Kevin Down told the Westbury Area Board they were very proud of the finished venue in Eden Vale Road, which is now being used by local groups.

The fully refurbished building was home to the former community centre which shut its doors in 2015, and now offers office space, training rooms, a main hall and internet cafe.

Wiltshire councillors, who represent Westbury, have heaped praise on the project trustees and helpers, which included local people and businesses coming together. Describing the project as a long slog, the trustees spoke of the heartbreak of further costs and refurbishment after vandals targeted the centre.

But Kevin Down said it was worth it, “It’s a dream come true and I can’t believe what we’ve got.”

Richard Hatt told a meeting of Westbury Area Board on Thursday 9th October, “The old centre shut its doors  five years ago now. The building lay dormant and Westbury Town Council was looking at its viability for turning it into something else.” 

Local feedback  was positive and the Westbury Community Project was created.

“The charity formed in 2017 and with them we tried to raise the funds for refurbishment,” Richard said. “It was a slog and needed a lot of energy and drive to keep going forward.

“The proposed cost of the project was £250,000. We were looking for a shoestring £50,000 to open the doors of the community centre to attract groups aged 0 – 99.

“We started to pave the way with stakeholders like the men’s group and Popcan.”

“Community spirit is alive and well in Westbury and we are riding the wave of it.”

Support came from local people, the White Horse News in published articles. and Wiltshire Council, Richard said. “I’ve been head of the junior school for 18 years and it’s been a long time coming that we’ve had a resource for Westbury that we can be proud of.” 

He explained that he called in Kevin Down, a parent at the school and  businessman on the trading estate.

“I asked him if he knew any tradespeople that could carry out refurbishment, and he did.

“He did an outstanding job in motivating and arranging people to come in and he became project manager.”

The trust advertised nationally to employ a development manager and Kevin was successful in the post.

Board members were shown slides of what the building was like before the refurbishment, and what happened when vandals targeted it just four days before the asset transfer from Wiltshire Council to the Trust was due to happen.

“We had some terrible vandalism,” Richard explained. 

Presenting the slides, Kevin  Down told members, “It’s been a slog but hopefully we are there.”

The slides showed trashed rooms with broken and smashed doors, woodwork and fittings.

Kevin explained, “The refurbishment now included the cost of new windows, external doors, boiler and pump, CCTV, intercom and phone systems. We couldn’t do it all in the first phase. We had a great team supporting us with funds to do the refurbishment. The costs of the project were rising and the budget was getting hit.” 

He then presented slides  of how the centre now looks, including freshly painted, smart rooms and a thankyou board bearing the names of supporters. Kevin said, “We are very proud of where we are now. We’ve opened it up to the likes of Slimming World, Warminster & Westbury Youth Club and Dance Craft, with Popcan starting in November. It’s there for the whole community and we haven’t even advertised it yet.

“There’s so much for the community to use once this Covid-19 thing decides to leave us hopefully. The thankyou board says it all, but not everyone is on there.” 

Ethandune representative cllr Suzanne Wickham said, “You should be rightly proud, what a  fantastic achievement, and congratulations to everybody because it’s heartwarming to see where we have got to now.”

Cllr Gordon King representing Westbury East, who is also a Community Project trustee said, “What a sterling effort to get everything together to make that work possible. I think everybody in Westbury will be rightly proud. 

“I hope it brings the success we have dreamed about.  It’s a really outstanding piece of work.” 

The meeting also heard that Westbury Shed had a workshop space outside, and Fairfield Farm Community College will be helping to run the  cafe, which will open at the beginning of November. Upstairs are training rooms, which will be used by Wiltshire College for adult education. 

Richard told the meeting, “We were hoping for a real razzle dazzle opening. It will happen, because as a town we need to come together to celebrate this great success.”

“Community spirit is alive and well in Westbury and we are riding the wave of it.”

Online booking forms will be created and a website will go live in a month. 

Charitable grants have played an important part in the project including a £52,000 funding boost made available through the Landfill Communities Fund (LCF) which is administered for The Hills Group by Community First, the Rural Community Council for Wiltshire.

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“Community spirit is alive and well in Westbury and we are riding the wave of it.”

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