The idea of a cafe and community building in Heavitree Pleasure Ground was first raised by members of the community in 2010. The City Councillors were supportive and conversations started to spread, fuelled by the desire to build community, provide a quality hire-able space for Heavitree and to enhance an amazing urban green space.
Park Life Heavitree was formed by 3 local couples and had started running events in the park so the ideas grew and people gave their thoughts – overwhelmingly positive. An elaborate scheme was birthed with Heavitree Bowls Club and The 2nd Exeter Scouts who were looking for new premises.
Unfortunately due to lack of finance and the scale of the project the idea never got off the ground and in 2013/14 the scheme was shelved.
But in 2015 Park Life decided that the public will and desire for the project was very much alive. As Park Life developed it’s aims of reducing social isolation, getting people involved in their community and providing people with opportunities to get active, it became clear that a facility in the park would help fulfil these aims. We worked hard to recruit a new volunteer building team and found local retired project managers, planning consultants, structural engineers and quality surveyors all keen to get involved and give something back to the community. That team tendered for an architect and in May 2016 Sean Keaney of FairView architects was appointed to design the community a café, hireable hall space, outside seating, an office, storage and quality toilet facilities.
By 2018 the team had full plans agreed and achieved planning permission in May 2018. Then began the hard work of raising the substantial capital to build it. We are very lucky that we weren’t the only ones thinking the project was a great idea. We are extremely grateful to the following organisations which have contributed significantly to the build costs:
- The National Lottery Community Fund
- Power to Change
- The Garfield Weston Foundation
- Exeter City Council Strategic Fund
- Sport England Community Asset Fund
- The Bernard Sunley Foundation
A lease was signed with Exeter City Council in May 2020 and we our contractor started work on site in January 2021.
The cafe will serve many potential purposes, including:
- Providing an income along with the community hub to help sustain the Pleasure ground’s short and long term future. With huge funding cuts between 2014 and 2018 due, Heavitree Pleasure ground needs to become financially sustainable. This is one way that can happen.
- Providing jobs for local people. A cafe manager and paid staff will be needed as well as volunteers. We eventually foresee training and mentoring schemes running through the cafe too.
- Providing a unique, central place for locals to meet up, eat and drink together in a warm, friendly and comfortable place.