July 5, 2016 | Brenkley News
Users of a popular community centre in a Northumberland village are extremely relieved after work was completed on a major upgrade of its bathroom facilities.
The collapse of the floor of the gents toilets at the Area Training & Activity Centre (ATAC) Community Hall in Widdrington Station had meant that everyone was having to share the ladies’ facilities, with a guard posted on the door to ensure everyone’s privacy.
But a successful drive by the ATAC committee to bring in the £33,000 required to put things right has allowed for all the toilet facilities to receive a long-overdue upgrade, with a new separate disabled facility being created as part of the process.
And feedback from visitors to the hall has already highlighted just how much of a positive difference the changes have made to the whole building.
Regional employer The Banks Group contributed £11,000 to the project, via its Banks Community Fund, with additional funding for the improvements being provided by Widdrington Station & Stobswood Parish Council, Northumberland County Council’s Community Fund, the Sir James Knott Trust, The Big Lottery Fund, UK Coal and local councillors.
It’s the second time that The Banks Group has made a major contribution to building work at ATAC, with a £9,000 grant provided in 2013 helping to pay for the repair of the hall’s leaking roof and other building improvements.
Serving the villages of Widdrington Station and Stobswood, and surrounding areas of South East Northumberland, ATAC was established in the early 1990s after a derelict building which had previously been the concert room for the local Working Men’s Club was reclaimed and renewed.
It provides a safe, welcoming environment for a wide range of both youth and adult activities, advice and training, and hosts a huge variety of different events and organisations, from IT training and drop-in sessions, youth clubs and a film club through to a dance group, a Healthy Walking group and a local litter pickers group.
Jacqui Bexfield, treasurer of ATAC’s management committee, says: “The gents toilets were part of the original building that we took over and were more than 40 years old, so they’d long been in need of refurbishment, but when the floor gave out, health and safety regulations meant we couldn’t use them anymore, which created all sorts of logistical problems in the building.
“We didn’t have the money in the bank to get the required work done, so the committee set up a campaign to bring in the funding required from outside sources, and the response that we’ve had from all the organisations that have come to our aid has been invaluable.
“The changes we’ve been able to make have totally changed the feel of the building – it’s so much lighter and airier now, and has lifted the whole environment of the place, and we’ve had a massive amount of positive feedback from our users about how much more enjoyable it is to make use of the building now.”
The Banks Group has worked in south east Northumberland for more than three decades, and has supported a wide range of community projects in and around the local area over many years, with over £1m being donated through the Banks Community Fund to projects and amenities in the communities around its Shotton and Brenkley Lanne surface mine sites in the last decade alone.
Jeannie Kielty, community relations coordinator at The Banks Group, adds: “Venues like the ATAC Community Hall are often the catalyst that enables so many good things to happen in the communities that they serve, and we’re very pleased that our Northumberland operations have enabled us to extend our support for their excellent work in this way.”
The Banks Community Fund provides grants for community groups and voluntary organisations in the vicinity of both operational and proposed Banks Group projects. Anyone interested in applying for funding should contact James Eaglesham at the Banks Community Fund on 0191 378 6342.