BBC Countryfile presenter John Craven was on hand to cut the ribbon and officially open Banbury’s new Style Acre hub today (Friday).
The new three-storey building in Butchers Row has undergone an incredible nine-month transformation after the site was originally Le Royale Nightclub before it closed down and remained empty for many years.
The new hub will be known as SABRe (Style Acre Banbury Resource) and will provide opportunities for adults with learning disabilities. Facilities include an IT suite, common room and apartments to house adults to give them more independence in the community.
Mr Craven is vice-patron of the charity and along with their chief executive Kate Liddle, they unveiled the new facility where invited guests were given guided tours of the complex.
He said: “I think Banbury is incredibly lucky to have this centre. What a transformation from a dingy nightlcub and derelict building with all its awfulness into this place; light and bright and airy, just a wonderful place for people to come.
“Banbury badly needs this place. The state generally looks after people reasonably well with severe mental disabilities, but for those with mild or medium disablities there is very little.
“But here is a place where they can come. They can pop in and out whenever they come, they can learn new skills, make friends and earn a bit of money. It is somewhere that they will never forget once they have been here, it is going to transform the lives of a lot of people.”
The project cost £900,000 to complete, and it has received support from the National Lottery and groups in the town including Banbury Charities and Banbury Town Council.
The Rotary Club of Banbury Cherwell also handed over a cheque for £4,000 last month, which allowed the charity to purchase a light beam machine, a touch-free system that allows young adults with learning difficulties record music with their hands and feet.
Banbury town mayor Tony Mepham attended the opening, and said: “This is a fantastic place for the town and will be a flagship building for years to come. It will continue to be used year after year and it is another example of a derelict building in Banbury being transformed. It is a great place and very positive for everyone here.”
Frank Wise School headteacher Sean O’Sullivan also added that with the charity opening its new hub in the town centre, Banbury is now one of very few places in the country to provide opportunities for people with learning disabilities right from a young age through into their adult lives.
He said: “I think for Banbury this really is a star attraction because there cannot be many towns in the country that can claim to have such fantastic facilities for adults in the community that have a disability.
“I have always been very proud of what Frank Wise has offered to the town but to be able to work with Style Acre and know that our young people are moving on to have such fantastic opportunities in their lives is brilliant.”
For more information about Style Acre visit their website at www.styleacre.org.uk