Banks Group grant helps brighten up Blyth community building

September 17, 2013 | Brenkley News

A well-used community building in a south east Northumberland town has been given a new lease of life after a four-figure grant from a local employer paid for its redecoration.

The Eric Tolhurst Centre in Blyth accommodates several different charities and non-profit organisations, including the Blyth Valley Disabled Forum, Citizens Advice Bureau, domestic violence organisation Cease 24, community mediation company Bliss Mediation Services and the SE Credit Union, and is used by around 9,500 people every year.

The building, which is more than one hundred years old and which was opened in its current format in 1996, had not been decorated for well over a decade, with the result that the facilities were looking increasingly worn out and unwelcoming.

But now, a £7,700 grant from Banks Mining, via its Banks Community Fund, has paid for all the Centre’s numerous public areas to be fully redecorated and re-carpeted.

The Centre’s tenants have already had lots of positive comments from visitors about the difference the work has made to the whole atmosphere in the building, and they’re hoping that it will lead to even more local people making use of the building in the future.

The grant work was led by the Blyth Resource & Initiative Centre (BRIC), a not-for-profit community hub also based at the Eric Tolhurst Centre which provides support around education, employment and training issues.

BRIC works in partnership with a number of different organisations, including Northumberland College, Northumberland Fire Brigade Union, Sunderland University Centre for Life Long Learning and the Workers Education Association, to offer a variety of accredited, non-accredited and vocational courses to local people.

Cath George, development worker at the BRIC, says: “The Centre hadn’t been decorated this century, and time had certainly taken its toll on the fabric and decor of the building, so we’re extremely grateful to Banks for their generous support in helping us make these improvements.

“The difference that having new carpets and freshly painted walls has made to the whole building is amazing, and we’ve had so much positive feedback from people visiting the Centre about how brighter and airier it now seems, and how much more comfortable they feel spending time here.

“Word is spreading through the community about the improvements that have been made, and we’re hopeful that many more local people will now want to make use of the better facilities that are available to them.”

Banks is currently looking to secure planning permission for additional work at the Shotton and Brenkley Lane surface mines, at which around 200 people are currently employed and which contribute around £35m every year to the local economy through wages and the supply chain.

Elsewhere in Northumberland, the company is also carrying out public consultation on its plans for the Highthorn Surface Mine near Widdrington Station and around its proposed development of over 400 new homes in Ponteland.

Mark Dowdall, environment and community director at Banks Group, adds: “The Eric Tolhurst Centre provides a well-used home for many organisations that contribute a great deal to community life in Blyth, and our support for this project is due recognition for the importance of the work that they all do.”

Projects, community groups, or voluntary organisations looking for funding in the vicinity of a Banks Group development should contact James Eaglesham at the Banks Community Fund on 0191 378 6342.

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