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The ParkLife journey

The idea of a café and community building in Heavitree Pleasure Ground was first raised by members of the community in 2010. The City Councillors were supported and conversations started to spread. Fuelled by the desire to build community, provide a quality hireable space for Heavitree, and to enhance an amazing urban green space. Park Life Heavitree was already 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 financial support and the scale of the project the idea never got of the ground and in 2013/14 the scheme was shelved.

In 2015 Park Life decided that the public will and desire for the project was very much alive and 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 fulfill 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 deliver 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 were very lucky that we weren’t the only ones thinking the project was a great idea. The following organisations have contributed significantly to the build costs:

*The National Lottery Community Fund

* Power to Change

* The Garfield Weston Foundation

* Exeter City Council Strategic Fund

* Exeter Community Forum

* Sport England Community Asset Fund

* The Bernard Sunley Foundation

A lease was signed with Exeter City Council in May 2020 and we are currently working with our preferred contractor to agree a start time in Winter 2020 for the construction work to begin.