The Greatfield community hub
Greatfield Big Local identified the need to scope out an independent community hub as part of their Big Local plan. The group hopes that a hub will help to create a place for activities and build a sense of community.
Sue Pleasance is the manager of the Greatfield hub. She hopes that the hub will help to fulfil the purpose of ‘bringing people together in a place they want to be, to develop skills, find employment and volunteer opportunities’.
The Greatfield Hub opportunity
The building was originally part of a school that’s no longer in use and a councillor identified the opportunity to make use of it for the community. The Big Local partnership agreed they were interested but first wanted to test out the idea of a hub. They decided to take on the building on a five-year lease, with a get-out clause after two years. Sue Pleasance says:
“I think the local authority would have given them the building, but they (Big Local) said, hang-on let’s lease the building, try it out and see if it works. People want a legacy from Big Local and the potential for the building to be that is there.”
Greatfield Big Local has developed a positive relationship with the local authority, working closely with them and their building management company to plan for further improvements.
Future plans for the building
Some parts of the building are already being used but Greatfield Big Local would like to make better use of all of the building. They’d like a community café area and to create a performance space. They’re currently developing a gardening project, with a new path and ramp created as part of this. The Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) is contributing a team of volunteers to help prepare the land for this project and one of the RBS team managers has even offered to be on the hub management committee. In the future, they hope to develop other projects at the hub for which they could draw in additional funding and enable it to be self-sustaining.
Greatfield Big Local has also benefited from local volunteers and scouts helping with renovations at the hub (below).
Management of the building
Greatfield Big Local’s locally trusted organisation, Hull and East Yorkshire Community Foundation (HEYCF), have signed the lease with the local authority on behalf of Greatfield Big Local. This means that the project benefits from the guidance of the community foundation’s trustees and Greatfield Big Local. Sue is employed by HEYCF to work 24 hours per week as the Greatfield Hub manager, paid for with Big Local funding.
The long term plan is for the building management committee to become a legal entity, separate to Big Local but still resident-led and independent from the local authority. The team currently managing the building includes some Big Local partnership members and reports to the Big Local subgroup overseeing the hub. The management committee also has some non-voting members with professional expertise to provide additional support.
Developing plans for sustainability
Greatfield Big Local’s long term vision is to take ownership of the building through a social enterprise model. Sue explains:
“We do need to generate income but we want the profits to go back into the community.”
There’s been a huge appetite to use the building locally, with some regular events already established. The management committee is exploring how to balance low-cost activities for the community with paid-for use of the building that will help to bring in an income.
Opportunities identified to charge for use of the building might include local groups or children’s parties, providing a cheaper alternative to privately owned venues while keeping the money in the community. The building and individual rooms can be hired by individuals and organisations and it is currently being used by the local authority to deliver courses and library sessions.
The Greatfield Big Local plan sets out how they will work with the local credit union and Citizen’s Advice Bureau and the Big Local group hope that these organisations will have a presence in the community hub in the future.
Greatfield Big Local is aware of the improvements they’ll need to make to the building to make it fully compliant with all health and safety requirements. Sue feels that an important learning point is to get a full structural survey of any building before you get too involved so that you know what state the building’s in, what work needs to be done, the costs and how long it might take. She adds:
“Just because you’ve got the keys it doesn’t mean you can open the building the next day and everyone is going to come flooding in.”
Using local networks
Through developing the building, Greatfield Big Local has benefitted from a huge range of support from local tradesmen and this has made some of the renovations much more affordable. Some have even given their time for free. Sue explains that this support relies on using local networks:
“Relationships are key for finding contractors and getting people who are recommended. The Big Local partnership members have been key to that.”
The connection with HEYCF has also helped the Big Local group to develop connections with local businesses. Some of the volunteers went around to different businesses to explain what they’re doing and find out how local companies might be able to help.
Greatfield Big Local’s top tips for developing a community hub
- Test out the idea and make sure that you’ve got the backing and the interest of people in the local community.
- Involve people and make sure what you’re doing is visible because when people can’t see what’s going on they don’t always think or believe that something is happening.
- Take good professional advice around health and safety and around the responsibility of managing a building.
- Community Matters has a wealth of resources for community buildings and hubs and it’s a great place to network.
- Building a good relationship with the local authority is really important and they have specialist knowledge, such as environmental health which can be very useful to you.