Gladstone Connect can be described as the Community Council for the Gladstone area of Peterbrough, an inner urban district bounded by the main north-south railway line to the west, New England Triangle to the north, Lincoln Road (A15) to the east and Westgate (city centre) in the south. The area with a population of 7,000 comprises mostly of Victorian terraced housing with lots of corner shops, two churches, three mosques and a couple of primary schools. The organisation was established in 1998 with the support of Peterbrough City Council and other bodies such as the Peterborough Regional College, YMCA, Cambridgeshire Constabulary, the Peterbrough NHS Trust and Business in the Community as well as local people. At the time there was a real expectation that major urban renewal was about to get underway so a body was required to bring together all the parties that would give direction to the inner city’s transformation. In the event the necessary funds for redevelopment were not forthcoming but a body was still needed to press for improvements and to manage the new premises provided for the government-funded Surestart programme that was launched to support young children and their parents by way of playgroups, clinics, home-visiting and community nursing services.
Gladstone Connect is a registered charity with a Board of currently seven Trustees and wide-ranging objectives. The aims of the organisation include: seeking to ensure first-rate access to services for all residents; to support residents in their aspirations for rewarding employment, good housing, health services and education and training; to increase awareness of rights and responsibilities; and encouraging the development of local services by local people.
There is just one employee – the Community Engagement Officer who liaises with local people and local orgainsations, manages the premises and markets the centre. The overall responsibility for the premises and the organisation as a whole rest with a Board of Trustees. Due to significant cuts to local government finances Gladstone Connect no longer receives grant aid from the Council. Income is generated from lettings and administrative fees. Securing the funds necessary for operating the Centre is a constant challenge.
Gladstone Connect has adopted some ambitious aims for the next few years. These include improving the promotion of the organisation to project a dynamic image, building up and supporting a bank of volunteers, creating a “stakeholder forum”, seeking the transformation of a stretch of open space to create a small urban park, providing further adult learning courses and working with the local public health office to offer services to tackle health inequalities (particularly those relating to lifestyle issues such as diet, smoking and drinking) and mental health issues. A priority aim is to identify additional trustees with skills to help the organisation develop as well as to better reflect the makeup of the local multi-cultural population.
Peterbrough City Council recently announced that £15m is earmarked for the urban renewal of the southern part of the Gladstone area, an area known as North Westgate. Gladstone Connect intends to be at the forefront of plans and to participate fully in this exciting and long-overdue development.
In addition to providing premises for activities as already explained we engage closely with our local authority and health providers in planning improvements to services and capital developments.
Two purpose-built Surestart premises, the Allama Iqbal Family Centre and the Veranda Family Centre, were managed by Gladstone Connect until 2012 when the lease on the Veranda was relinquished to allow the building of new school premises on the site. And from 2009 until 2013 the organisation managed the Council’s large Gladstone Park Community Centre with its facilities for sports, meetings, teaching and social events such as weddings. Gladstone Connect now manages just the Iqbal Centre at 157 Cromwell Road which comprises of a main hall and kitchen, a meeting room, office, a clinic room, a broadcasting studio and a pre-school that is operated independently. Currently activities include Salaam Radio broadcasting round the clock, community education classes funded by City College, an “employment support service” funded by the Local Enterprise Council, Barnardo’s sessions for young mothers, office space for the Pakistan Community Association, language classes, a senior citizens’ club, a physiotherapy clinic and occasional lettings for social events.