A NEW £500,000 community hub hailed as “another step in the regeneration of Horden and East Durham” welcomed two special guests to its official opening.
The former St Mary’s Church Hall has been revamped and re-opened as the Horden Centennial Centre, which will support the community with a range of services including combating loan sharks.
The official opening was performed by the Queen’s representative for County Durham, HM Lord Lieutenant of County Durham, Sue Snowdon, with a blessing by the Bishop of Jarrow, the Right Reverend Mark Bryant.
Local schoolchildren lined up outside the centre, in Blackhills Road, Horden, waving Union flags to greet the special visitors.
The project, funded by a £469,779 Big Lottery Reaching Communities grant and a further £32,620 from the Big Lottery to go towards building professionals, has transformed the hall into a resource for the whole community and a host of activities and groups are now able to use the facilities.
The centre includes a suite of computers which will allow people to access online benefit information and make payments. It will also allow people to engage with NE First, the Credit Union for Durham County and Gateshead, which uses the centre as a collection point every Wednesday between 9.30am and 10.30am.
John Barnett, chairman of the centre and of Horden Colliery Residents‘ Association, said: “We have had a big problem for a long time with loan sharks and the only way for lesser well off people to access a decent loan is through a credit union.
“The local credit union has gone from strength to strength after being set up two and a half years ago.” Bishop Mark said: “We are working to get church buildings in use on as many days of the week as possible and what is exciting about this project is that this centre has clearly been designed with the community in mind.
“We know how much credit unions are needed but one of the problems for them is finding buildings from which to operate.”
Though the premises still belong to the Parochial Church Council, the centre is managed by a group of trustees and a management committee.
Bishop Auckland-based contractors Vest Construction started work on the revamp of the 100-year-old building in June and work was finished in October.
l Further details of what the Centre can offer are available at http://www.hordencentennialcentre.co.uk.