Local residents from the Allen Valleys have won funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund to begin preparing plans they hope may restore the former Allendale First School to their community.
The group, Allendale First, hope to turn the listed building and its grounds into a place which supports families to live in the valleys. The old school is planned to host extended versions of existing services, including for childcare, health and wellbeing, and food growing. Allendale First hope to increase employment and training opportunities in the Valley, and also make it easier for local residents to work and learn themselves.
Allendale Preschool is already a tenant on site, and need to expand to provide child care for babies and toddlers, before and after school and in the holidays. Thornley Leases Care want to meet the local demand for day care and couples residential accommodation. Several local enterprises are interested in using the greenspace for growing food, outdoor learning and eco-therapy treatment for mental and physical wellbeing.
Allendale First have been supported by Social Enterprise Northumberland to set up the group, develop their business planning and collaborate with Northumberland County Council. Options are being explored to see if Allendale First could take over the former school building and grounds via a Community Asset Transfer from the County Council.
The Heritage Lottery Fund has awarded Allendale First a Start-Up grant of £8,600 to research and prepare plans which are expected to lead to a future Heritage Enterprise grant, to repair and convert the listed building and its grounds to new uses. This Start-Up grant will pay for architectural plans of the building and grounds as they are now. While these are being drawn up, a gap analysis of community services and assets will take place to gather evidence to support the group’s proposals. In late Spring, the group hope to use this information to design a scheme which meets the needs of the place, the stakeholder organisations and the local community. In early Summer the scheme will be published and local people will be asked for their comments.
Chair of Allendale First, Yvonne Conchie, said “We’re thrilled to have had strong support from HLF, which will allow us to gather information to make plans to help the future sustainability of our community. This is our first step on a project that could take several years to achieve. We’re really excited that our community may be able to reclaim a building which has shaped the childhoods of so many people in the Allen Valleys. ”
Larry Winger, chairman of Allendale Village Hall, congratulated the group on their grant and emphasized “Local facilities like the halls around the Allen Valleys will all be eager to participate in the gap analysis, so their own services and assets will be complemented by the new project.”
John Dobson, a director of local community charity Fawside, said “This sort of regeneration project is what gives Allendale such a strong sense of community.”
Kate Maughan, trustee of Allendale Preschool said “Preschool is really looking hopeful of having the security and stimulation of other parties sharing the former First School site with us. It’s a very exciting possibility for the future.”
Linda Charlton from Thornley Leases Care said “We’re pleased to have this opportunity to try to increase the care and support we are able to provide for the Allen Valleys’ ageing residents.”
Local resident, Gail Stephenson said “This building has been a part of so many lives in the Allen Valleys. It would be great to see it back in use again.”
Allendale First will keep the community updated through their facebook page and via the Allen Valley newsletters and Village notes in the Hexham Courant.Ends/