Work begins on £2million Dolphin Centre project in Ward End

Published: Tuesday, 25th October 2022

Work to improve the Dolphin Centre in Ward End is well underway and is scheduled for completion in March 2023.

The £2million project is being delivered for Birmingham City Council by Building Services Now Limited and will bring a wide range of improvements to the facility, including:

  • The extension and retrofitting of the main building in Ward End Park with green energy and carbon reducing technologies;
  • The provision and equipping of space within the building for a Youth Hub where a Jobcentre Plus Youth Employability Coach will provide intensive support to young people from the local community;
  • The installation of a lift to provide disabled access to the middle and lower floors of the building;
  • The creation of a café, which will provide opportunities for local unemployed women to gain work experience;
  • The installation of upgraded digital connectivity including secure closed Wi-Fi for the Youth Employability Coach and a free public hotspot for the use of the community.

Funding for the scheme is being provided by a range of organisations. The European Regional Development Fund has contributed £510,576 for the building fabric extension and green energy retrofit, with £315,000 supplied by the Greater Birmingham and Solihull Local Enterprise Partnership (GBSLEP) from its Growing Places Fund for fit out including the kitchen and lift.

The East Birmingham Programme, established to deliver the East Birmingham Inclusive Growth Strategy, has provided £280,000, HS2 Community & Environment Fund a further £75,000 and the National Lottery Community Fund has contributed £48,000 through a grant to Norton Hall Family and Children Centre who lease the Dolphin Centre. The remainder of £793,285 is being supplied by the council from Community Infrastructure Levy funds.

Extensive consultation on the development of the Dolphin Centre and Ward End Park has been carried out by Norton Hall Children and Family Centre over the last five years, and it is the responses from the local community that helped shape a vision for the venue and the services the charity delivers.

The work to the Dolphin Centre is an integral part of the wider Ward End Park Lakeside Renewal Project, which has and will also see improvements to the lake, the Wash Brook, the woodland area, increased and enhanced public access and the creation of a lowland heath to encourage a greater diversity of plants and pollinator insects for people to see and enjoy as they walk around the park. Through the East Birmingham Programme the project will also be tied in with wider regeneration initiatives in the area, including planned improvements to the historic Ward End Park House.

The East Birmingham Ward Members Forum and the East Birmingham Board, representing a number of local and regional stakeholders, were consulted about the Dolphin Centre proposals ahead of the work starting.

A special site visit was staged on October 24 for project stakeholders to see progress on the scheme, since the start of construction in August of this year.

Cllr Majid Mahmood, Cabinet Member for Environment at Birmingham City Council, said: “This building is an asset that is highly regarded by people in Ward End and surrounding areas, so it is great to see so many organisations coming together to improve the facilities and services that it offers.

“As well as offering more opportunities for local women and young people in particular, it will also make the park a more attractive place for people to visit.

“Given the current concerns about the cost of living, I am also delighted that this building will be much more energy efficient as a result of this programme of works – and I cannot wait to see the centre when the work is completed.”

Sophie Drake, GBSLEP Board Director, said: “Last year, when we launched our funding call for projects to support young people, we were putting into action the recommendations of GBSLEP’s You(th) Matter Strategy.

“Along with other partners on this project, the £315,000 grant from our Growing Places Fund is helping to create an inclusive community space that will house a Youth Hub as well as wider community facilities for this area of Birmingham.

“In this challenging economic climate, projects like this are vital to helping communities who need ongoing support to access jobs, training and employment opportunities.”

Liam Byrne MP, who represents the Birmingham Hodge Hill Constituency and is Chair of the East Birmingham Board, said: “Having helped the Dolphin Centre draw up their funding bid I’m delighted to see work starting. This project is a key a part of our East Birmingham Regeneration Plan to transform Hodge Hill and make it an even better place to live and work.

“I am especially excited about the opportunities this breakthrough will now offer women and young people here in Ward End and across Hodge Hill. The Dolphin Centre is quite simply a beacon of the hope in our incredible community and deserves the very best. With this funding we're one step closer to that goal.”

Cathy Elliott, Independent Chair of the HS2 Funds, said: “The Dolphin Centre was awarded a £75,000 grant from HS2’s Community & Environment Fund because it offers vital community services to local people impacted by the construction of HS2’s Washwood Heath maintenance depot which is currently being built across the road from Ward End Park. By making these strategic investments in local projects now, we can ensure that HS2 can continue to leave a positive legacy in impacted local communities.”

Suzanne Knipe, CEO Norton Hall Children & Family Centre, said: “As an independent charitable organisation, working with our local community for over 50 years, we are delighted that our vision for the redevelopment of the Dolphin Centre building and the environmental improvements to Ward End Park have come to fruition.

“We would like to thank all who have supported this project, in particular the council’s Landscape Practice Group, who have worked tirelessly to see this project succeed.”

Darren Perry, construction director, BSN Group, said: “We’re absolutely delighted to be working on this challenging yet rewarding scheme. It’s a privilege to be a part of such an important project, where we can really see the impact of the work we’re doing on the local community.

“For projects like this, it’s important that everything is done right, and we’ll be approaching it with our usual diligence, applying our experience of working in sensitive environments, to achieve the best outcome.

“This is our first project for Birmingham City Council, and we’re hoping that this will become a part of a long-term partnership, as we work together to create great environments for those who live in Birmingham.”

More information on the Dolphin Centre can be found on the Norton Hall website.

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