Timetable for business centre underway

It’s full speed ahead for plans to turn an empty building in Whitleigh into a head-quarters and business centre for the Four Greens Community Trust.

Planning permission has now been granted to transform the Whitleigh Care Home into a thriving centre for small businesses and a community space, creating around 60 new jobs in an area that has traditionally suffered high levels of unemployment and lacked employment space.

Tender documents are being sent out in the next few weeks and the Four Greens Community Trust – which covers the areas of Ernesettle, Honicknowle, West Park and Manadon and Whitleigh – plan to appoint a contractor in August.

If all goes according to plan, contractors could be on site in September with construction due take around six months.

Budshead ward councillor Jon Taylor said: “We’ve got the funding to get this going; we have the people committed to making this happen and now we have the timetable of what people can expect to see when. I’m really excited to see this project coming alive. It just shows what happens when you give power to communities; people take control and deliver great results.”

Permission has been granted to turn the former care home into units for business and community use. It comprises general office and reception area, three community rooms, a large kitchen and breakout area, 22 business units, five hub units and smaller kitchens, toilets and stores on each floor.

The main uses include two community spaces on the ground floor which will include a crèche and other community related events. The first floor will have a community room for providing services for children as well as midwifery and health visitor appointments.

Other parts of the building will provide new business start-up space alongside employment and training opportunities to help adults and young people learn new skills to help them on the road to employment.

It is intended that the community trust will get an income from letting small units, but there are also bigger plans for the building. The trust has been in discussion with the ‘Whitleigh Big Local’ and teams in the Council, who are looking to base community and inter-related service facilities there.

Vince Burke, FGCT board member leading on the design sub-group, said: “Another major milestone has been reached. This project has got a lot of people coming together, working extremely hard for the wider communities in this part of Plymouth who have not had the facilities or confidence to give the world of business a try. This is just the start.”

Councillor Tudor Evans, Leader of the Council said: “This project is more than just a building – this is about giving people a space to train, to act more as a community and to reach their full potential.

“This is just the beginning of an incredible journey. This started with local residents prioritising and recognising a great need in terms of facilities and opportunities and tackling it. We are now looking at a real building, with tenants, generating an income for the trust and making things happen in an area that up until now has been left off the city’s business map.”

In October 2014, the Council’s Cabinet gave the go-ahead for the former Council-owned building to be transferred to the FGCT and awarded the trust £90,000 from its ground-breaking Social Enterprise Investment Fund to appoint a business development manager.

Following the presentation of the business case to the Council’s investment board in March, formal approval for £1.275 million Council funding was given to the project by way of an executive decision signed by the Leader of the Council on 20th March 2015.

Dave Vear, Chair of the FGCT said: “Securing the funding and planning permission has provided the impetus for transforming the empty building into a thriving, vibrant building that responds to the aspirations and community needs of local people as well as bring an economic benefit to the four neighbourhoods it will serve.”