WORK is about to begin on the building of a new community centre aimed at improving the health and wellbeing of residents in the south-west of Durham City.

Based in the Neville’s Cross area of the city, the Lowes Barn Community Project will be managed by volunteer trustees of the project, who have spent years campaigning and fundraising for a community hub.

Having recently received additional financial support from Durham County Council and Durham Area Action Partnership (AAP), work to build the centre will begin this week.

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The project is the first to receive funding from the council’s Towns and Villages Community Resilience Fund, which has been allocated to support communities in addressing issues of concern and to protect, maintain and enhance the social fabric of communities.

The centre was awarded £150,000 from this fund and a further £28,000 from Durham AAP’s Area Budget and Towns and Villages Funding.

Further money has been secured from Section 106 developer funds, including an award linked to the Banks Group development at Mount Oswald.

Community contributions have also supported the project, with trustees hoping to raise further local funding to increase the range of facilities it can offer when it opens next spring.

The centre’s sustainable design aims to meet the needs of the community, offering a number of different sized spaces that can accommodate exercise classes, children’s activities, meetings and craft sessions.

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Located on part of the former bowls green on Lowes Barn Recreation Ground, it is also hoped that the facilities will be used by people visiting the adjacent children’s play area and sports field.

Representatives from the council joined trustees and volunteers of the Lowes Barn Community Project and other supporters of the project for a ground-breaking ceremony at the weekend, ahead of the official work starting this week.

Cllr Elizabeth Scott, Cabinet member for economy and partnerships, said: “We are pleased to have been able to support the trustees in making this new community centre a reality.

"It has taken a lot of hard work and dedication by a number of volunteers over the years and it is wonderful to see their efforts pay off. It is going to be a real asset for local residents.

“With plans to offer a host of activities alongside rooms that can be used as a meeting point, it will offer benefits to people’s physical health and mental wellbeing and help to strength the community.

"This is hugely important in helping to ensure we have thriving communities where our residents can live long and healthy lives.”

Jennifer Thompson, chair of the Lowes Barn Community Project trustees, said: “We are thrilled that the community centre has finally got the funding needed to start the build phrase. This is the result of many years of effort from trustees, volunteers and our supporters.

“We would like to thank all our funders and supporters, including Durham County Council, the parish council and members of the wider Neville’s Cross community for their support. We look forward to working with everyone through the next stages of the project and seeing the centre come to fruition.”

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