At least £1 million has been allocated by the Big Lottery Fund (BIG) to help Toothill become a stronger and more capable community over a ten year period.
The area is one of the first 50 of 150 urban and rural neighbourhoods across England to benefit from the new Big Local Trust programme.
Each neighbourhood has been selected after extensive analysis of social and economic indicators which reveal that people face many social obstacles and have a history of difficulty in obtaining resources, including lottery grants, to help overcome them.
Mark Cotton, Big Lottery Fund Head of the South West region, said, “the Big Local Trust is a dedicated lottery funding stream to help people in neighbourhoods such as Toothill to identify local issues and to develop the skills and confidence necessary to change things for the better.”
He added that the aim of secure long term funding and dedicated local support will bring lasting positive change for the people living in the community.
However funds won’t start to flow to projects until an independent charitable trust has been selected to administer the £200 million allocated to the Big Local programme. A lottery spokeswoman said the organisation will have a proven ability to work at a grass roots level.
Toothill & Westlea ward councillor Steve Wakefield said he was delighted that part of his area has been chosen. "It really is great news for the people of Toothill. I very much hope this will bring residents together to discuss the issues faced by their community and come up with ideas about how to tackle problems. And it gives hope to existing groups to become stronger for the longer term.
"We must await the formation of the trust to administer these funds, but it gives people an opportunity to talk about local needs before applications for financial support are made."
Tina Mackie, who helped set up the volunteer run community cafe at Toothill Church said, "it’s brilliant news for Toothill. The lottery is going to help a lot of groups. I’d like to see people talking about the needs of the area and discussing how projects can have a long term effect on our community."
Her husband Denis is chairman of Toothill Youth Club. "Lottery funds could help our club do a lot more for the young people in the area. It could mean we can plan and organise affordable activities for children aged 5 to 15 years old without wondering how the next few pennies can be scraped together. It’s very exciting."
Pictured, welcoming help for Toothill from left, Dr Peter Swinyard of Phoenix Surgery, Toothill, Denis and Tina Mackie, Heidi Edwards, Coun Steve Wakefield, Pastor Gabriel Adegboyega, Annette Kennedy
Heidi Edwards, who was born and still lives in Toothill, works as a childcarer for Koalas special opportunities playgroup at Salt Way Children’s Centre in Middleleaze.
“I’ve only just heard about the lottery grant but I can see the need for more provision for young families in Toothill. Bringing parents and children together in the community centre for example would be a good thing.
“Toothill should not be seen as deprived but it’s very difficult for families to cope, even to use local facilities like the Link Centre during the holidays. We’re encouraged to eat and live healthily but it’s expensive.”
Toothill Community Centre manager Annette Kennedy said the building will have an important role in helping lottery funded initiatives. “We are an under used resource but it does mean the centre has capacity for new projects. We’ve not had any pre-school provision here since the playgroup closed about ten years ago. There is certainly scope for more activities aimed at all ages.“
Swindon Council Neighbourhood Warden Chris Slade welcomed the lottery allocation. “There is a lack of enthusiasm about putting time and effort into community initiatives. I hope this could give people hope for improving the area and will result in more participation.”
Pastor Gabriel Adegboyega of the Redeemed Christian Church of God that meets in the community centre gave thanks for the big lottery decision. “Great things could happen. These funds are an opportunity to develop and empower people to work for the good of their community.”
South Swindon MP Robert Buckland said The Link could have a significant contribution, "I am delighted to welcome this significant amount of funding. Let’s start by using The Link magazine to reach out to Toothill for people’s ideas, for example. I look forward to doing whatever I can to make sure that this funding delivers meaningful improvements to Toothill."