Bridge Project in Sudbury sets out ambitions to expand services after announcing plans to relocate to new premises
After persevering through a difficult 2020, a long-running Sudbury social enterprise is eyeing a bright future.
The Bridge Project – set up 26 years ago to support disadvantaged adults in the community – announced this month that it plans to relocate to new premises in the near future, to help facilitate ambitions to expand its services.
Planning permission is being sought to convert the charity’s long-time base in Gainsborough Street into nine homes, with the intention of marketing the building for sale, while it transitions to a new site, to be announced soon.
Following the submission of the change-of-use application to Babergh District Council, trustees have sought to dispel rumours about the organisation’s future, stating it is as strong as ever, and aims to grow by moving to a more suitable facility in Sudbury.
Paul Mackman, trustee at The Bridge Project, told Suffolk Free Press: “We are definitely not closing. Actually, the charity has never been in such a strong position as it finds itself currently.
“The reason for us moving is, despite it being a nice building, it’s an old building and it’s no longer really fit for purpose. As we own the building, selling it is a great way of injecting funds back into the charity.
“We have to find a buyer and it is now able to go on the open market. Our consultants say there are already some interested parties.
“They are positive and exciting plans. We have not yet finalised arrangements for our new home, but we hope to have an announcement in the coming weeks
“We will not be leaving Sudbury. There will not be a break in any of our services, and we will be increasing our service provision.”
In announcing the relocation and expansion plans, The Bridge Project indicated that its existing base in Gainsborough Street, while full of character, had become expensive to maintain and impractical in terms of layout and accessibility for its current uses.
A planning statement supporting the application to convert the building into flats reads: “The café has been in use for many years, but with Covid-19, the demand for this type of industry has evidently dramatically dropped.
“The Bridge Project has subsequently moved the majority of its operations to a new premises within Sudbury to allow it to focus on the hot food delivery business, along with specialising in providing for the vulnerable.”
The organisation added that its new site in the town will enable it create a home that is fit for purpose while “continuing to be a hub of creativity and inclusivity”.
Mr Mackman added: “Despite the current pandemic, The Bridge Project is in the strongest position it has been since it started in 1995.
“We have exciting plans for the coming year to continue to grow our services and community support.”
The confirmation of the relocation plans comes as The Bridge Project celebrates being named Charity of the Year for the second year in a row by Roy’s, as voted on by the supermarket’s staff.
The accolade has added to the positive momentum for the charity, which has been ramping up its day service for disadvantaged adult students, including people with dementia, learning disabilities and mental health difficulties.
It is also preparing to reopen the Bazaar charity shop in Gainsborough Street, once lockdown restrictions ease, while its hot meal delivery service is now running seven days a week, serving Sudbury, Great Cornard, Long Melford, Acton and Great Waldingfield.
Lisa Townrow, finance manager for The Bridge Project, told Suffolk Free Press: “We are really delighted to get the award. We know there are lots of excellent worthy causes locally, so it means a lot to us, especially as it is voted on by the staff at Roy’s.
“It has been a very challenging year. We have been quite reliant on our hot meal deliveries, which we’ve seen a sharp increase in demand for.
“We’re nearly back to full strength with our students, and there’s a feeling that we want to make up all that we have missed in the last year.
“As they have drifted back, we can see how much they have missed it. Some of them have deteriorated and there has been a massive toll on them isolating at home.
“It makes a huge difference. Some of our students haven’t had a chance to mix with their friends for some time. When they first came back, the energy and excitement was amazing.
“We’ve had to change how we operate, but it all seems to be working quite well. There’s a lot of positivity and a real energy about the place.
“We’re looking ahead. Over the next year, we’re looking to continue expanding our lunch delivery service, and to grow the student day service. It starts at 18 years old, but we may look to bring that down to 16.
“There’s a sense that we have ridden out the most challenging period of the pandemic, and things are looking a lot rosier, so we are able to make plans.
“The Bridge Project is not about bricks and mortar, but about our staff, volunteers and, most importantly, the people we support.
“For the first time in our history, we have the vision and the funding to take ourselves forward into a very bright and exciting future.”
To find out more about The Bridge Project, call 01787 313691 or click here.