Countryside Communities Fund pledges over £15,000 for Acton Gardens Community Centre


Countryside, the UK’s leading mixed-tenure developer, has donated over £15,000 from the Countryside Communities Fund to the Acton Gardens Community Centre, which was delivered as part of Countryside and L&Q’s regeneration of the former South Acton estate in west London.

Over £15,000 has been donated, comprising £14,250 in committed funding for the community centre over the next three months. These funds will be used for the food bank, community kitchen and children’s activity packs. An additional £1,000 food order was placed and contributed to the weekly Acton Gardens food bank, helping them to continue providing for those in need. 

These funds will allow the Acton Gardens Community Centre to continue the additional support of the local community in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. This is focused on the emergency food hub which was initially established by residents at the community centre, in partnership with the Bollo Youth Centre, the Acton Gardens Community Centre and the Acton Mutual Aid group. 

In the wake of the crisis, the Acton Gardens community banded together to establish community-led groups through WhatsApp, social media, and leaflet dropping, offering support to those who need it, from cooked meals to dropping off shopping. With referrals for food bags and hot meals multiplying, the centre offered its premises and kitchen facilities to allow for surplus food and supplies by The Felix Project and other partners, including the local Morrisons branch and donations from as far away as Hammersmith to be repackaged and distributed to residents. Local caterer, Crystal's Supper Club, has been cooking hundreds of hot meals with the help of local volunteers, which have been swiftly delivered by organisers and local resident volunteer groups to the doorsteps of Acton residents. 

The COVID-19 pandemic has been particularly hard on children, who have lost their usual routine, and so, utilising funding from Countryside and MHDT London, the community centre has delivered over 300 free art packs and educational worksheets to school pupils across the estate, which can reduce stress and encourage self-expression.

Mental strain reaches far beyond young households though, with loneliness felt by the elderly and families separated from loved ones, as well as those with limited access to the internet and phones. To alleviate this, Countryside and MHDT London have supplied free tablets to residents and the local school, enabling contact with loved ones and to facilitate online educational resources. These tablets also allow residents to participate in online activities, such as dance classes with Elevate Arts UK and ballet that were previously held at the community centre in an effort to support mental health and wellbeing. The community centre has also used this funding to hire the dance instructors to provide online classes for residents. 

The Countryside Communities Fund has been set up to support local charities and groups, food banks and others providing essential local services in locations where Countryside operates across the country. Since launching the £1m-fund in April, it has contributed over £500,000. 

Mike Woolliscroft, Chief Executive, Partnerships South, Countryside, said: “The response in Acton to the coronavirus pandemic has been extraordinary, and is testament to the strong community spirit of the area. The Acton Gardens Community Centre has been at the heart of this, playing a crucial role in helping local people to get through the crisis. Having built the new community centre and delivered it early in our 18-year regeneration programme, we are committed to providing the centre with the extra resources it needs at such a challenging time so it can continue supporting the local area.” 

Simon Donovan, Chief Executive, MHDT London Development Trust, which runs the Acton Gardens Community Centre, added: “Acton Gardens Community Centre in partnership with Countryside, MHDT London, and other local organisations and groups such as the Bollo Youth Centre and Acton Food distribution service have been very fortunate to be able to support a resilient and compassionate community at this time of crisis. We have rallied together to ensure these much-needed initiatives are reaching those who face hardships. May such collaboration, here and in other communities, continue long after the lockdown eases to ensure a brighter future. 

“We have been able to achieve a lot by relying on a committed number of volunteers over the last few months. We encourage locals and residents to register with us by emailing us at [email protected].”

The Acton Gardens community centre was officially opened alongside the Bollo Brook Youth Centre in July 2019. Both centres are part of a new hub for residents which is also home to a dental practice, incubator workspace and local supermarket. In 2020 the hub will be expanded further, with a nursery, GP surgery and more retail space, offering residents all the services they need on their doorstep. 

Once completed in around 2028, Acton Gardens will deliver 3,463 high-quality, tenure-blind homes of which 50% are for either social rent or intermediate home ownership tenure (by habitable room). The 18-year project is also transforming the former South Acton estate with state-of-the-art community facilities and public spaces.