The Clifton Centre, St Leonards on Sea, wins Biffa Award

A community centre in central St Leonards on Sea has won Biffa Award Funding that will enable a new lift and improvements to take place.
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The Clifton Centre in Central St Leonards has been awarded a grant of £55,000 by Biffa Award for the installation of a new lift and other improvements. Work is due to start this Spring and be completed by Autumn. The grant was awarded following a successful campaign that showed strong local support for the community centre, involving both a crowdfunder and grants from local benefactors Isabel Blackman Foundation and Hastings Roundtable.

The community centre building, dating back to the 1870s, was once a tavern called The Clifton. In 2002 it became a charity, the Southwater Area Community Centre, established as a venue with rooms available for hire by groups and individuals which provide support and activities to improve the lives and opportunities of local people.

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On its 20th anniversary in 2022 the building was rebranded the Clifton Centre as a nod to its heritage and a mark of our intention to become an up-to-date and modern venue. The re-brand included securing a new 25-year lease from Hastings Borough Council and a fantastic new paint job keeping its famous pink colour with added nature-themed hand painted murals by local artist Neonita.

The Clifton CentreThe Clifton Centre
The Clifton Centre

Biffa’s funding will enable us to modernise the centre, making it more sustainable and accessible. The existing lift, which is out-of-date and unreliable, will be replaced, enabling wheelchair users, parents with strollers, the elderly and unsteady to easily access the upstairs rooms. In addition new flooring, an energy efficient heating system, kitchen improvements and repairs to the roof will make the centre an even more welcoming and suitable venue for all the community to use.

Peter Pragnell, Chair of Trustees, said: “The Biffa Award grant opens the way to modernising our facilities and preparing us for another 20 years and more, providing much needed facilities for the community. We are dependent on such grant funding to cover our larger expenses and truly grateful to Biffa for their generosity.”

Clifton Centre users are also delighted to hear about the planned improvements. Currently the building is host to after-school classes, kids’ holiday clubs, therapy sessions, addiction support groups, coffee mornings, access and inclusion activities, clubs, meetings, training and more.

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“I use the Clifton Centre to run craft activities and my classes often include disabled people. Having a new lift will make it possible for people with mobility impairments to attend any activities run by myself and others upstairs in the centre. It will also mean hirers can carry equipment upstairs more easily and safely.”

Theresa Hodge, St Leonards Inclusive Crafts

Isabelle from the Rainbow Magic Kitchen said: "When I organised a French cooking and children’s cooking workshop session at the Clifton centre, we were welcomed with great kindness and support, be it to promote the events or on the day to help with everything practical.

“I really look forward to doing more work with the centre and organising further events there. The lift is going to make it even more accessible, which it deserves. The Clifton Centre is a precious place!"

A crowdfunder campaign last summer kick-started the improvements campaign and Clifton Centre users and local people were generous in their support. The East Sussex County Council ‘Making it Happen’ programme was able to match fund this. We would also like to thank the Isabel Blackman Foundation, known for grants improving the lives of local people, for its substantial contribution to the improvements programme. Our thanks are also due to Hastings Round Table, who made a generous donation. It was only by having such solid local support that we were able to attract large funding.

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Rachel Maidment, Biffa Award Grants Manager, said: “At Biffa Award we’re proud to support projects which are so integral to the life of their community. The Clifton Centre Project will provide the opportunity to bring people together to join in with a wide range of activities, improving health and wellbeing. Projects like this supply the means for a community to thrive.”

To date Biffa Award has dispensed grants totalling £189 million across the UK to worthwhile community and environmental projects. The programme administers money donated by Biffa Group Ltd through the government's Landfill Communities Fund.

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