Gregson Lane and Coupe Green villagers' delight after council hands over £300,000 for new community centre

Residents in a corner of South Ribble are celebrating after a £300,000 council grant took them across the finish line in their near decade-long fundraising efforts to secure the cash needed to build a new community centre.

Friday, 22nd April 2022, 8:00 pm
Updated Monday, 25th April 2022, 2:02 pm

The Gregson Green charity - named after the Gregson Lane and Coupe Green areas it serves - has managed to generate £200,000 to replace their existing village hall.

The building, on Gregson Lane, was itself funded using donations from villagers. However, it dates back to the 1960s and is now showing signs of dilapidation.

The quest to create a new facility began around ten years ago, although the phenomenal fundraising capacity of locals was largely put on hold by the pandemic.

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'We did it!': Phyl Barnes, Jacqui Gibson, Geoff Brown and Jane Perry celebrate as their dream of a new community centre for Gregson Lane and Coupe Green finally looks set to become a reality

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Now, just as the team of around 15 committed volunteers were getting set to gird up for a fresh push to hit their daunting target, South Ribble Borough Council has stepped in and given the charity a grant which will finally bring their blueprint off the drawing board.

Gregson Green committee chair Jacqui Gibson says everybody who has worked so hard on the vision for so long is delighted.

“You have this goal that you never seem to be able to reach - and with the cost of everything going up, it actually felt like it was getting further away.

The current Gregson Green Community Centre is looking more than a little worse for wear

“Because we are not classed as a deprived area, we hardly ever met the criteria to be eligible for larger grants from the organisations that usually hand them out.

“But we have just had to keep going, because at some point the hall is going to fall down - or at least get to the stage we can't use it anymore.

“It’s a very much-loved building - people who grew up in the village have used it for years.

“However, it is basically a wooden shack with asbestos walls. Although the asbestos is coated and has been made safe, the building probably wasn't meant to last this long.

Now a modern facility will replace the more than 50-year-old village hall

“We have actually been held up by the council as an example of how to fundraise - and we are really very grateful to them for the grant,” added Jacqui, who said that thanks also had to go to the whole community for its support and people’s willingness to volunteer when required.

The totemic sum totted up by a population of under 3,000 households has been generated from a combination of annual events, like summer galas and fireworks displays - which have often attracted people from far beyond the village borders - and all-year-round efforts.

The current hall is as well-used as it is well-worn, with groups including a string orchestra, craft club and community church taking advantage of the space, along with Girl Guides, the WI and those in need of somewhere to host a birthday party.

The hope is that the new building will provide a modern main hall, disabled toilet access, more storage space and an additional room for meetings - as well as a patio area with doors into the hall, which will allow visitors to look out across the football and cricket pitches on the site.

Gregson Green charity chair Jacqui Gibson is proud of the commuinity's fundraising achievements, but knows they would have taken a long time to reach their target

The grant was approved at a meeting of South Ribble Borough Council, where Labour cabinet member for health and wellbeing Mick Titherington paid tribute to the “valiant efforts” of locals for the cash they had managed to conjure up over the last 10 years.

However, he added: “Given the current climate, it is extremely unlikely that they would be able to raise the [rest of the] money needed in the foreseeable future.

“Given this is a vital community asset on land bequeathed to the council - with a covenant that it be used for the benefit of the community - we are doing the right thing and making good the requested funding,.

“This is another step to us fulfilling our vision of building community strength and I’m sure members and residents alike will welcome this move with the utmost pleasure,” Cllr Titherigton added.

Conservative ward councillor for Coupe Green and Gregson Lane, Gareth Watson, thanked the authority - and the individual councillors who supported the project - for helping to complement the “amazing fundraising” of villagers.

A report presnted to members noted that just over 600 of the 4,200 residents of Gregson Lane and Coupe Green live alone - and so there was an "acute" need to reduce isolation and loneliness in the area, an ambition in which the new facility could play a vital role.

Although planning permission will have to be approved before work can begin and some minor details still finalising, Jacqui hopes that the new community centre will finally get off the ground within the next 12 months.

“The sooner the better,” she smiled.