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Grant helps ramp up access for community

£5000 has been donated to Austrey Old School Hall in north Warwickshire to help it remain an important social hub for the rural community.

The grant, awarded from the Mercia Park Community Fund set up by a local developer, IM Properties, to have a positive impact on the communities surrounding its junction 11, M42 scheme, will help make the hall more accessible.

The village hall is extensively used by the locals, however, access for pushchairs and wheelchairs have always presented a problem and some elderly residents are no longer able to get up the steep flight of steps to attend activities.

Chris Wynne, vice-chair who describes Austrey as the sort of village where the teenagers wish you a ‘good morning’, says the hall is the real soul of the community and makes a big difference to the physical and mental wellbeing of many residents.

“This is a place where lots of people come together, however over the years, it’s become virtually inaccessible to some older people and those with mobility issues.

“It’s such a vital lifeline and perhaps the only trip out many may make each week or month.

We host coffee mornings, a gardening society, a bridge group, WI, keep fit and for the younger generations we have a fund-raising skittles evening.”

The village hall, which was built in 1850 and originally designed for Victorian children as a church school will use the grant to create a new disability access ramp to the entrance.

The Mercia Park grants of up to £5,000 are being primarily directed at projects which strengthen communities or improve the natural environment.

“The start of the year is very important to us and we really go to town. We usually have a themed evening like a Thai night, a Russian night and even a Dickensian night and everyone dresses up, enjoys a seven-course meal and we probably have 40 or 50 covers.

“It’s a major fundraiser for the village hall. We’ve worked hard to make the hall covid secure and restart all the societies but with the second lockdown, we’ve had to cancel this year’s event.” said Chris.”

Kerry Amory who liaises with all of those benefiting from IM Properties community fund, managed by Leicestershire and Rutland Community Foundation as part of the company’s extensive social value programme said:

“It’s such a shame that some elderly residents or those with mobility issues are becoming socially isolated just because they can’t get into the village hall to enjoy the fantastic range of activities available to them.

“This is exactly where the community funds really make an impact in helping to make a difference to communities and in the new year, we hope to see the money in action and the opportunities it opens up to people through a simple pathway being installed.”

IM Properties is committed to delivering sustainable development across its business. Working in partnership with its occupiers and supply chain it aims to create jobs, skills and training opportunities, in addition to long-lasting social value benefits for the local community.

The next round of grants is now open for applications. For further information on the Mercia Park Community Fund visit https://www.llrcommunityfoundation.org.uk/apply-for-funds/mercia-park