Photo: Artist Impression of Main Entrance Ⓒ AWW Inspired Environments
You’d be hard-pressed to find many people living in Knowle in South Bristol who didn’t know where to find The Park Centre. Opened in the year 2000 on a 15-acre site in a residential area on the main bus route, the much-loved community base has welcomed local people; supporting them to learn, gain employment, keep fit and stay healthy, get to know each other, fulfil their ambitions and generally enjoy life.
The Park Centre, which is used by over 5000 people per month, is currently located on a former school complex. Dating from the 1970s, this hub of community activity, businesses, support services, education and leisure is in a poor state of repair and has become increasingly costly to maintain.
Keeping the whole complex open would soon be unviable, however good news for The Park has come in the form of a £1 million investment from Bristol’s City Funds, for a new purpose-built community centre.
Plans have been approved to completely redevelop The Park Centre site, part of which has been sold to the Department of Education for a new 900-place secondary school.
Emma Hinton, Director of The Park, welcomed the City Funds investment saying:
“What we really value about City Funds is that they understand what we are trying to do. Sometimes people parachute into our community, but it doesn’t work because they don’t understand what the community wants and they’re quickly gone again.”
“The Park is about the long-term and, because of that, things move slower than you might want. But City Funds understood that and has stood beside us along the way, making sure that ultimately the project creates something that the community really deserves – a new community asset that everyone can be proud of.”
According to the Indices of Deprivation 2019, the 10 most deprived neighbourhoods in Bristol are all in South Bristol areas of Hartcliffe, Whitchurch Park and Knowle West. Among them, Knowle West ranks among the 10% most deprived nationally. Social isolation and low aspiration are local challenges in a neighbourhood where some people haven’t ever left; even to go to Bristol’s city centre. Poor health, lower life expectancy and youth crime are also a result of entrenched poverty and deprivation.
The Park Centre is valued in the local community for the enormous benefit that it provides and it was for this reason that City Funds, Bristol’s local impact investor, were keen to play a part in the centre’s long-term survival. “Our community has its challenges”, says Hinton, “but the level of resilience and spirit here is incredible.”
Inclusivity and collaborative working have been a key part of the process with local residents being involved in the design of their new 2180 m² community centre, which will feature two brand new buildings for mixed-community use, linking with the existing sports hall.
The build is already in progress, with the moving in date scheduled for January 2021.
“City Funds has provided the final piece of the financial jigsaw and has given us the confidence to see it through.”
Emma Hinton, Director of The Park Centre.
Watch short video of Emma speaking about The Park Centre – City Funds Impact Investment Project in link below: