A BRAND new community facility in Ashington welcomed a special guest to its official opening this week.
The Duchess of Northumberland was at The North Hirst Community Hub on Tuesday to officially open the new base for community group Target North Hirst.
The Castle Terrace facility will be the focal point of a community-led project funded by £250,000 of Single Housing Investment Pot (SHIP) funding and co-ordinated by Northumberland County Council.
Based in a two-bedroom terraced house, the community hub features a reception and community area – where people can meet for tea and coffee – as well as a main office and a meeting room.
Staffed by volunteers from Target North Hirst – also known as North Hirst Tenants and Residents’ Group – the hub is open Monday to Friday, between 9am and 4pm.
It is the culmination of a three-year project created out of a report commissioned by the county council in relation to problems with private housing in the area.
Throughout that time, Target North Hirst has acted as a link between residents and the council, and group members have been working closely with officers in the housing, highways and neighbourhood services teams.
Most of the SHIP funding has been used to carry out external works on 144 privately owned properties in the area, and the community hub is one of the final pieces of the jigsaw.
Outgoing chairman of the residents’ group, Bill Wharrier, said: “We wanted to improve the area and build up a sense of community spirit so that people living in North Hirst would feel a sense of pride and responsibility for their surroundings.
“Our goal was to bring back the pride in the area.
Community hub manager Pauline Thompson said: “The aim of the group is to work with tenants, residents, partners and other groups to improve the quality of life for the people living in the North Hirst neighbourhood.
“We are also keen to add to the number of groups and organisations who use the hub to meet and run clubs and activities for people living in the area.”
The rent has been paid for the next 12 months as part of the project, and future rental will be paid from funds raised by the group.
Coun Tom Brechany, executive member for planning, housing and regeneration, said: “This is fantastic project that has been so successful thanks to the hard work and dedication of those involved.
“By working together, the council and local people in North Hirst have improved the quality of life in a way that best suits the surroundings and those people living there.”
To contact the community hub, call (01670) 457751 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org