A Northumberland sports club is hoping to attract new members and bring more representative events to the county after improving the facilities it can offer to disabled visitors.
Having recently completed a 120 square metre extension to its Ellington Road clubhouse, which is a converted former groundsman’s cottage, in order to make it properly fit for everyone to use, the club carried out a member survey to identify what other facilities they felt were needed there.
Fitting proper disabled toilet facilities came out high on the members’ wish list, and after securing a £7,923 grant from regional employer the Banks Group via its Banks Community Fund, the Club has now been able to grant that wish.
Paul Milburn, management committee member at Ashington Rugby Club, said: “The clubhouse extension project was vital in order to make our facilities robust enough to deal with the thousands of visitors we receive every year, but it required a major financial commitment which meant that we didn’t have the funds available to get the disabled toilets built.
“The member feedback we got was that it was essential for us to be able to offer disabled toilet facilities if we wanted to continue to host all the different activities that we stage, and winning the support of the Banks Group for this project has enabled us to do something that would otherwise have been out of our reach for the foreseeable future.
“Our aim is to be as inclusive as possible, and having these facilities means we’ll be able to accommodate everyone, whether able-bodied or disabled, within our much-improved clubhouse.
“The Green Lane Archery Club has already hosted representative events here, with a number of Olympian and disabled archers also competing on site in the past, and we hope that we’ll see more higher level competitions coming to the county in the future as a result of all the improvements that we’ve made.”
Local firm Sanders was awarded the contract to carry out the work, with feedback from visitors who have so far used the new facilities being universally positive.
Based on the site of a former colliery welfare facility, Ashington Rugby Club is a wholly volunteer-run organisation, with a team of local people and former players working together to look after the 16-acre site.
More than 15,000 people visit the grounds every year to take part in or watch different activities, with Ashington Rugby Cricket Club and the Northumberland Veterans Motorcycle Club also calling it home.
Ashington Rugby Club is home to six different sports teams and community groups, including Ellington Junior Football Club, the Northumberland Lightning American Football team and Green Lane Disabled & Able-Bodied Archery Club.
The Banks Group has worked and invested in Northumberland for well over three decades, and has donated around £800,000 to projects in Northumberland over the last decade alone through the Banks Community Fund.
Jeannie Kielty, development relations coordinator at the Banks Group, added: “Ashington Rugby Club is the centre of so many invaluable community activities, and the volunteer team works exceptionally hard to offer the best possible facilities to players and spectators.
“We have a very long track record of investing in improving community facilities throughout Northumberland, and we’re very pleased to add Ashington Rugby Club’s name to the list of groups that our Community Fund has been able to support.”
The Banks Community Fund provides grants for community groups and voluntary organisations in the vicinity of Banks Group projects.
Anyone interested in applying for funding should contact James Eaglesham at the Banks Community Fund on 0191 378 6342 to check if their group or project is eligible.