Centre was ‘big society’

Stephen Wooley from Erewash Partnership speaking at the celebration event for the Cotmanhay Enterprise Centre, due to close on Friday. Picture by Dave Arbon.
Stephen Wooley from Erewash Partnership speaking at the celebration event for the Cotmanhay Enterprise Centre, due to close on Friday. Picture by Dave Arbon.

A COMMUNITY centre, which closes its doors this week, has been praised as being one of the best of its kind in the country at an emotional final farewell celebration.

Last week the Advertiser revealed that the Cotmanhay Enterprise Centre, which offered training and social activities to residents, is set to close tomorrow.

At the goodbye event last week, dozens of guests connected to the centre, which is estimated to have helped more than 4,000 Cotmanhay residents a year since it opened in 1997, spoke of their sadness at the news.

In a speech at the event, Stephen Woolley from Erewash Partnership, which refurbished the centre shortly before it opened and has used the centre regularly since then, praised the centre’s ‘absolutely remarkable achievement’.

“It has worked in response to what local people want and to what local employers have identified as skills shortages. It has worked extremely successfully,” he said.

And chief executive of Community Concern Erewash, Brenda Davies MBE, said she was concerned about the effect the closure would have on her social care charity base in Bright Street.

She said: “Clients of ours are often referred to us from the centre – we have been a lifeline for each other.”

And chief executive of consultants Making Spaces Chris Pienaar, who has worked with community centres across the country, including the Bennerley Avenue centre in 2005, said that it was one of the best examples he had seen of Prime Minister David Cameron’s ‘Big Society’ idea in action.

“I just wanted to comment, in all those visits, my amazement at the effectiveness of this centre,” he added. “It’s absolutely incredible.

“How is the Big Society going to work when places like this close?”

The centre closes tomorrow because funding has dried up, but is set to be taken over by Derbyshire County Council.

Mrs Davies added: “Other organisations don’t have the leeway to tailor-make projects for people who are struggling with self esteem and are at rock bottom.”