'Really great opportunity': Charity set for move and expansion

mock up of The Bridge projects new build

The new premises will be located at King's Marsh, the home of AFC Sudbury and soon to be home of The Bridge Project. - Credit: Design Cubed

The Bridge Project has unveiled plans for a partnership and move to Kings Marsh, the home of AFC Sudbury, in what is a "really positive, exciting time" for the charity.

The charity, which assists disadvantaged adults in the community through a variety of projects, was set up in 1995, and has operated out of its café in Gainsborough Street, Sudbury, but now feels it is the time to make the move.

Chief executive officer of The Bridge Project, Dave Jackson said: “The main reason for the move is that we’re currently in a building in Gainsborough Street in Sudbury which was great when the charity first started, but has become a little bit unsuitable for us now.

“It’s a big old Victorian building, it’s split over three floors with split levels, and because we work with vulnerable adults with learning difficulties and some physical difficulties at the same time it just became unsuitable for us. 

mock up of The Bridge projects new build

The move will allow the charity to expand their projects and initiatives. - Credit: Design Cubed

“We then started working with AFC (Sudbury) to look at developing part of our social enterprise which was about our hospitality and catering. 

“So, we’re taking over the hospitality and catering at AFC, and as part of that there was this bit of land called the triangle which’s derelict, a bit overgrown. 

“We thought there’s a real nice opportunity here that we can actually move our facilities, we can sell the property at Gainsborough, release some capital and actually get a purpose-built or purposed-designed structure down at AFC. 

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“We started the process quite quickly, we found an old building in Oxford that was being knocked down, an old student block, a classroom as part of a college, that they were willing to sell to us for a whole pound! 

“It’s a modular classroom that’s about 40 metres long, that allows us to put in four classrooms, two social rooms, and give us an amazing space, and this building was about to be demolished. 

Members of the Bridge Project Sudbury

Members of the Bridge Project are looking forward to having a new premises at King's Marsh. - Credit: Lisa Townrow

“We managed to get it, I had to haggle, I had to take it down from £100 to a pound, I thought that was some of the best haggling I’ve ever done!"

While the base of operations is being re-located, the sale of the Gainsborough building means the charity will still be able to operate in the town. 

Mr Jackson added: “We were really worried we’d lose our town centre presence, which is really important to us, so we’re now taking on a shop in Boreham gate. 

“That’s going to provide a lovely opportunity for our students to sell some of the arts and crafts they produce."

The new site will allow the charity to expand its projects as well as strengthen its partnership with AFC Sudbury, which includes the charity preparing meals for football academy students, using vegetables and herbs grown at the new site.

Mr Jackson added: “We’ll be able to offer more spaces for our students, currently we’re limited to about 24, we’ll be able to increase that to about 36.

The Bridge Project new premises

As part of the move The Bridge Project will be taking over the hospitality arm of AFC Sudbury. - Credit: Design Cubed

“Our students can get in there doing some horticultural stuff, we’ll have polytunnels, we’re going to create a nature reserve in there, there’s going to be a little pond that we can start to re-populate with native species."

Speaking about the partnership with AFC Sudbury, and taking on the hospitality arm of the club, Mr Jackson said: “So that conversation started with us going in and saying do you know what, we do hospitality, that’s something that our students really enjoy, we run the café in Gainsborough Street, how about we come and take this on for you? 

“We’ve got our first wedding booked in for this year, we have a couple of engagement parties, birthday parties, we’ve already done a wake."

The Bridge Project hopes to be moved into the new site before the summer. Mr Jackson added: “The reason we’re doing all of this is we want to provide as many touch points for our students to get out into the community as we possibly can.

“It’s been a really great partnership for us and we’re really looking forward to how this progresses in the future."