Users of a popular County Durham community venue are stepping into the light thanks to financial support from a regional employer.
After being saved from closure by the fundraising efforts of a team of volunteers a few years ago, the building and facilities at Dipton Jubilee Centre have been gradually brought up to scratch to ensure that it remains fit for use by local people and groups.
The roof of the Front Street building was recently replaced with the help of a grant from Durham County Council, but having had significant water ingress over an extended period, the interior ceiling was in still in a very poor state and was impacting on the environment in the room.
But now, two grants worth a total £5,200 from the family-owned Banks Group have enabled Dipton Community Association, which runs the Centre, to replace the damaged ceiling.
Malfunctioning strip lighting has been replaced by a new energy efficient LED lighting system as part of the project, while additional insulation has been added above the ceiling to prevent heat being lost and to help keep energy costs down.
A grant of £2,200 was made from the Banks Community Fund for the project, with the remaining £3,000 coming from the community benefits fund linked to Banks Mining’s nearby Bradley surface mine, which aims to use revenues generated at the site to support capital projects being undertaken by local charities and good causes.
Dipton Jubilee Centre was opened in 1994, although a community building has stood on the site since 1935.
Having been taken on under the ownership of a volunteer-run Charitable Incorporated Organisation (CIO), it now hosts a wide range of local events, including line dancing, fitness classes, baby yoga, street dance, toddler groups, Rainbows and Brownies, and is also available for private functions.
Karen Dodds, grants officer at Dipton Community Association, said: “The Centre was on the verge of closing down and it took a huge community effort to save it, first by fundraising to clear its debts and then by local people and businesses pitching in to clean, repair and paint it free of charge.
“The water damage that had been done to the ceiling over the years meant it wasn’t the best environment in which to spend time, especially when only half the lights could be relied on to work.
“The new ceiling and LED lights have made a massive difference – it’s like being in a totally different place, and the feedback we’ve had from user groups since the work was finished has been fantastic.
“We’ve still got lots of other work to do on the Centre, with the windows, toilets and kitchen being next on the list, and receiving this generous funding from the Banks Group means we’ll be able to get on with tackling them much more quickly than would otherwise have been possible.”
Banks Mining is directing around £50,000 of the revenues generated at the Bradley surface mine, which sits between Leadgate and Dipton, into the fund, with individual grants of up to £3,000 available to deserving local causes.
The business has submitted a planning application for a small extension to the Bradley site which, if approved, would see the value of the fund rise to £100,000.
The Bradley community benefits fund is independently administered by the County Durham Community Foundation, and a funding committee comprised of community representatives is responsible for ensuring the money is spent in ways which meet local priorities.
Eligibility for funding is normally restricted to projects and activities within the closest communities to the Bradley site, which are Dipton, Leadgate and Medomsley, but projects in neighbouring areas may also be eligible if they can be shown to benefit people living within the closest communities.
Lewis Stokes, community relations manager at The Banks Group, adds: “The Bradley community benefits fund is designed to bring tangible benefits to local people, and this is a great example of how it can be used to improve neighbourhood facilities.
“Dipton Community Association members and other local people did an amazing job in bringing the Centre back to life and we’re very pleased to have helped them complete this latest piece of work.
“As well as generating money for the benefits fund and local employment opportunities, the high quality coal being produced at Bradley is helping to meet UK industry’s continuing demand for it and is also reducing the country’s ever-increasing reliance on coal imports for meeting this enduring need.”
Projects, community groups, or voluntary organisations looking for grant funding from the Bradley Community Fund and/or the Banks Community Fund should contact the fund manager at the County Durham Community Foundation on 0191 378 6342 or visit https://www.banksgroup.co.uk/corporate-responsibility/banks-community-fund/