A local lady has raised over £1 million pounds in order to fund a community hub after she noticed there was nothing for residents and young families to enjoy.
Lucinda Spelman-Ives, 61, live in Wilstock, part of the Stockmoor & Wilstock new-build community between Bridgwater and North Petherton.
The population of 5,000 were served only by a green space with a small amount of play equipment, a fish and chip shop, a couple of charity shops and and a Co-op – what they lacked was something that would promote long-running and repeated social interaction amongst the community.
“My grandson was only two months old when he moved down here,” says Mrs Spelman-Ives, “he’s now nine years old, so that makes you look and think ‘wow’, that’s nine years and there’s been nothing for them [the family] to walk to.
“The parents do drive, but why would you want to drive everywhere? There should definitely be an option to walk. Because of that, I thought, unless someone actually does something then nothing is going to happen.
“These days with young couples, most likely they will both have to work just to pay the mortgage. This often leaves minimal time to interact, so I thought if there was a hub of sorts, there’d be somewhere they could all meet each other far more easily.”
Mrs Spelman-Ives then set up the Wilstockhub charity to start raising the necessary funds to build a community centre, with six other trustees on board with a broad range of skills. She says she wasn’t “too sure” how she was going to manage it, but the process involved a lot of hands-on learning.
“The first thing I did was go to a community camp at the Eden Project,” she says, “they pointed me in the right direction and I came away with not only contacts but the confidence to crack on.”
Fifteen months of consultation then took place to find out what the community wanted, with Mrs Spelman-Ives starting the ball rolling by door-knocking. Alongside fundraising events like an annual Big Lunch – attracting over 600 people – the trustees secured a first round of funding from NPTC and Hinkley Point, and also further funding from the National Lottery.
Seven years later and almost all of the £1.3 million has been raised, and after the fifteen months of consultation had been completed, they then approached an architect to draw up a sympathetic design to include an on-site nursery, a sports hall, meeting rooms, a multi-use games area, a café, an outdoors social area and even a communal vegetable garden.
The initiative has gathered so much traction that housebuilding company Bloor Homes, the company responsible for the two new-build villages, have even given donated land to increase the size of the hub; a decision truly in line with the project’s communitarian outlook, as Bloor Homes “could have built eleven new homes on the donated land.”
“You have to have a deadline on these things, so we intend to start building in spring,” says Mrs Spelman-Ives, “it’s all looking good so far, and tender applications for building work are on the way.
“When I started all this I wasn’t quite sure how I was going to do it. That’s where the Eden Project came in, they told me to contact Locality and they’ve all been so helpful.
“One funny thing that I’m not afraid to say was that in the first meetings, I’d attend and write down words I wasn’t sure about, then go home and look them up in a dictionary!”
Thanks to the actions of one tenacious local woman and a team of trustees, the villages of Stockmoor & Wilstock can look forward to a hub that will benefit everyone, from young to old. With building work predicted to begin in spring next year, they won’t have to be waiting too much longer to see the fruits of their labour.