Dolphin Centre in Ward End reopens after £2m refurbishment

Dolphin Centre is officially reopened in Ward End
Published: Monday, 2nd October 2023

A ribbon-cutting ceremony took place at the Dolphin Centre in Ward End following a major refurbishment.

The £2m project, delivered for Birmingham City Council by Building Services Now Limited, has brought 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;
  • 30 laptops and 25 MiFi devices were supplied from the city council’s digital inclusion team to help deliver more digital courses on site and a new laptop lending service has been established for learners who are experiencing digital poverty.

The scheme was funded 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 to create this inclusive youth hub with enhanced disabled access at the Dolphin Centre. These enhancements will help provide an inclusive community space that will address all four key themes of the GBSLEP You(th) Matters Strategy.

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.

Works were carried out following extensive consultation on the development of the Dolphin Centre and Ward End Park, which was conducted by Norton Hall Children and Family Centre over the past five years. Responses from the local community 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 1.8ha new heathland to encourage a greater diversity of plants and pollinator insects for people to see and enjoy as they walk around the park. Since the creation of the heathland in September 2022, there is evidence of at least three different ladybirds, a variety of bees and an abundance of sheep’s sorrel.

Through the East Birmingham Programme, the project will also be tied in with wider regeneration activities including working with the community to find a new role for the historic Ward End Park House, as well as wider plans for the improvement of housing, transport and local centres across the east of the city.

A special site ribbon cutting ceremony and tour took place on 28 September for project stakeholders to see the finished project, which began in August 2022.

Cllr Majid Mahmood, Cabinet Member for Environment at Birmingham City Council, said: “The Dolphin Centre is an asset which is highly regarded by the community in Ward End and surrounding areas, so it’s fantastic to see the result of all the collaborative work done by so many organisations to improve the facilities and services it offers.

“As well as providing more opportunities for local women and young people in particular, it will also make Ward End Park a more attractive place for people to visit.

“I am delighted to see these improvements to the Dolphin Centre, now the work is complete, and the community is able to benefit from all the work that goes on here.”

Liam Byrne MP, who represents Birmingham Hodge Hill Constituency and is Chair of the East Birmingham Board, said: “The team behind the new Dolphin Centre have done a simply incredible job turning the dream of an amazing new community hub into a reality - and it’s been an absolute privilege to help support them!  

“This project is a key part of our East Birmingham Regeneration Plan which will see hundreds of millions of pounds of new investment come into Ward End and Hodge Hill over the decade ahead. This includes new investment in parks and a new business park with thousands of jobs opposite Ward End Park. We couldn’t turn this vision into reality without incredible social entrepreneurs like Suzanne, Maxine and their team.”

Wendy Kerr, Chair of the Board of Trustees, Norton Hall Children & Family Centre, said: “The Dolphin Women’s Centre is part of Norton Hall Children and Families Centre (NHCFC), linking support for children with educational opportunities for women.

"The provision of education and employment programmes has grown by 36% over the last two years. These community services have grown from needs identified by a dedicated team lead by Suzanne Knipe. The refurbishment of the Dolphin building in Ward End Park ensures that a varied programme of education can continue to expand, improving life chances for local women.”

Darren Perry, Construction Director, BSN Group, said: “The extension and refurbishment was an exceptionally difficult project, however at BSN Group we relish such challenges (it's in our DNA).

“Knowing how important the facility would be for women of the local community, we pulled out all the stops to deliver high quality and to maximise the budget. Now complete, our work has been transformational, and we are really proud of our contribution.”

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

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