Elmswell: Community achieves through business approach

FOR those living in Elmswell, the concept of “doing things for yourself” is nothing new.

After 13 years of business-like planning, and with a whole village working in unison, the new �550,000 extension of Blackbourne Community Centre officially opened as part of the Jubilee celebrations.

Peter Dow, Elmswell Parish Council clerk and one of the driving forces behind the facility, agrees with the findings of Suffolk ACRE’s rural review, which suggests community-owned and self-help initiatives have an important role in sustaining the county’s villages.

He said: “There is no point in waiting for grants, we just went out and did it.

“We have been Elmswell incorporated, we have been run like a business.”

Mr Dow said one of the things Dr Wil Gibson, chief executive of Suffolk ACRE, liked about their initiative was that the whole village backed it.

“We had a public meeting and asked ‘Is this what you want?’ And everyone said ‘Yes’.We decided what we wanted was to have something for the kids. The current building wasn’t really the right shape, so we dedicated the extension to them.”

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The project, which features extensive new facilities, came in at �550,000 after initial costings of �700,000.

Almost �175,000 was raised by villagers and �125,000 came from the parish council.

A further �250,000 came from the Public Works Loan Board, which will be paid back over the next 15 years by villagers using the community centre.

Mr Dow said he appreciated the community project was made easier by the size of Elmswell.

“Every village is different but what they’ve got to do is be realistic and use their strengths as best as they can. We have done very well with what we have got and I know we’ve got more challenges to come.”

He added: “The people on our parish council are business-like and pragmatic. That’s luck, really. Without that, we wouldn’t have got anywhere.”

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