Plans to revitalise Swanage day centre and children’s centre

Swanage day centre and the children’s centre in Chapel Lane off the High Street are to be transferred from Dorset Council ownership and handed to the local community to create a health and wellbeing hub for all ages.

The aim of the Swanage and Purbeck Development Trust, which will take over the management, is to build on the existing services, ensuring that the most needy, along with older people in our community, are supported, while also strengthening provision for babies and their parents.

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The day centre

The Swanage day centre will be enhanced with a friendly and informative welcome area with a cafe. Across the site, they’ll be services like mental health support, maternity services, debt advice and possibly, hospice day care, as well as offering a base for community groups

Enthusiatic backing of the scheme

The handover of the property to Swanage and Purbeck Development Trust, supported by Swanage Town Council, was agreed in principle at a Dorset Council cabinet meeting on Tuesday 28th March 2023, with all councillors enthusiastically backing the scheme.

This follows the successful transfer of the Swanage Youth Centre – now known as The Centre – from Dorset Council to the Swanage and Purbeck Development Trust in 2016, which is located next to the day centre and children’s centre.

Bringing the three community buildings under the same management will allow the creation of a health and wellbeing complex, incorporating a Family Hub.

Swanage Children's Centre

The children’s centre will be able to offer more family services

Swanage, all set to get Dorset’s third Family Hub

Family Hubs are a government funded scheme, similar to Sure Start which was introduced in 1998 but phased out due to funding cutbacks.

Dorset Council is one of the first local authorities to receive a grant to set up Family Hubs. The award of £875,450 along with additional funding from Dorset Council has already enabled Family Hubs to be opened in Ferndown and Wimborne. Swanage is now all set to become the third.

The government vision for Family Hubs is to create welcoming spaces to access help and support from services such as NHS health visitors, midwives, early years practitioners, voluntary, community and faith sector partners, without needing an appointment or having to travel too far.

Draft plan of how the new health and wellbeing complex could look
Morgan Carey Architects

This plan was created to give an idea of how the site could be used to integrate services for everyone from babies to older people

Closer to home

The opportunity in Swanage is to extend the vision beyond that of the Family Hub, providing care from birth but also supporting older people who face different challenges as they age. And doing it all locally, more sustainably and closer to home.

As a rural seaside town, accessing health and support services regularly means driving to another town, which isn’t always easy for those on low incomes, reduced mobility or for some women immediately after giving birth.

The Centre

The Centre was the first building to be transferred from Dorset Council to the Swanage and Purbeck Development Trust. It will continue to be the base for a children’s nursery, as well as host music festivals at the weekends

“Retain and improve as many services as possible”

At the Dorset Council cabinet meeting, portfolio holder for children’s, education, skills and early help, Andrew Parry presented the proposal to transfer the Chapel Lane site.

He said that he was delighted to back the move, as he had great fondness for Swanage having spent many a happy childhood holiday there. He said the transfer had been “a long time in its formation, working with Swanage and Purbeck Development Trust and Swanage Town Council”, and he now wanted it to go ahead “at pace”.

Both the councillors who represent Swanage on Dorset Council spoke in the meeting. Councillor Bill Trite said:

“This includes all the best aspects of localism. This is particularly important for a relatively isolated community like Swanage and reflects the commitment in the Swanage Local Plan to retain and improve as many services as possible.”

“Hugely excited and supportive!”

Councillor Gary Suttle added:

“The commitment of the development trust for Swanage is something we should support – they have been absolutely fantastic in Swanage. This gives them a further opportunity to enhance the facilities – I’m hugely excited and supportive!”

Councillor Laura Beddow who represents West Purbeck said:

“If communities want to drive things in their area, quite often they know best and I think this really showcases what is possible if we all work together and I think it should be celebrated!”

The centre

The aim is to ensure all the buildings in Chapel Lane are retained for the benefit of the Swanage community

“I’d like to thank them for being so supportive”

The plan now needs to wait for Dorset Council to do the legal work before the trust can take over the management of the site. It’s hoped this should be completed in about three months.

Following the meeting, Bob Foster from Swanage and Purbeck Development Trust said he was delighted with how the meeting went. He said:

“This has all been possible due to Dorset Council and Swanage Town Council both working in partnership with the trust and I’d like to thank them for being so supportive in the drive to make this happen.

“There’s huge potential to enhance the site. Alongside being able to signpost people towards the help they need, we’re also hoping to landscape the outside space to provide an attractive garden area to boost everyone’s wellbeing.”

Once all the paperwork has been completed and the trust has got the keys to the buildings, it’s planned to have an open day to ask local people what services they would like to see and how they would like to get involved in the future development of the site.

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