People are concerned that society is becoming more fragmented. We now network and form community in a myriad of ways but busy individualised lives have led to an increase in social isolation, loneliness and depression, obviously not helped by the pandemic we are fighting. This is supported be the The Mental Health Foundation report of 2010 that showed, amongst other things, 48% of people surveyed believed people in general were becoming more lonely.
Parks are a ‘3rd place’ away from home and work where people can come together – we see Heavitree Park as a kind of community glue where people from all walks of life, all ages, races and religions can get to know each and support one another. As an example we have met an elderly lady through our work in the park. She lives overlooking the park but since she has no family, is of limited mobility and very few support networks she is isolated. We have been able to invite her, fetch her and introduce her to others at some of our events already – if a permanent structure was in the park just think of the potential for other people just like her. In some ways we think we all need a cafe in the park.
This community hub will create employment and help make the park more economically sustainable. It can support people working from home by offering a work space or meeting venue. Basing the facility in the park will encourage people to participate in activities that can lead to healthy lifestyles. This could be through tennis coaching or new park sports like lawn bowls or FOLF (Frisbee Golf!). The building as a community hub could be used as a voting station, playgroup or for any number of community activities or groups.
We believe that this project meets themes 4,6,8 and 9 of the Council’s Parks and Open Space Strategy as well as meeting Purposes 3,4,6 and 7 of the Corporate Plan for Exeter.
A professional feasibility study was completed in November 2014 which along with master plans for the entire park, a quantity surveyor’s report and grounds testing also produced some different, more informed designs The point of the project is about the people it will serve. We want it to eventually be a heart of the community not a hindrance. Please get in contact with us if you want further information or updates about it, we really value your input.