Poltimore Transforming Lives project gets funding boost

A project for people in recovery to help restore an historical and cultural house near Exeter has just been given a funding boost from Public Health England, signalling a major step forward in its aim to transform both the house and the lives of vulnerable people in and around the city.


The £45,000 funding will enable the expansion of pilot work at Poltimore House which is already delivering tangible benefits to people in recovery from substance misuse or mental health issues.


Councillor Andrea Davis, Devon County Council’s Cabinet Member with responsibility for public health, said:  “This is a truly innovative approach to working with some of the most vulnerable and marginalised people in our community, providing them with a route to greater opportunity, improved health and wellbeing, and a fulfilling and active recovery.


“This funding will provide a vital stepping stone in our journey to creating a sustainable and transformational programme which will create social, economic and personal development opportunities for the local community and across Devon.”


This 18th-Century country house is designated a Grade II* listed building and fell into a dilapidated condition during the second half of the 20th Century. The house sits in 13 acres of land and in addition to the main house there are a number of outbuildings. Poltimore House is supported by volunteers, corporate groups and other organisations as it moves towards the restoration of the house and its parkland and gardens.


The inclusive approach to those involved in the “Transforming Lives” project will increase capacity to move the regeneration forward while creating opportunities for experience and key employability skills, from carpentry and plastering, horticulture, catering, events management and photography.  It will also help develop self-esteem, social and team building skills needed for entry into further learning or employment.


The PHE funding will make it possible to increase the current number of people benefiting from the existing pilot project from six people to 40 – more than a six-fold increase. There is already a waiting list from many more people in recovery who want to be involved in the scheme.


The project is the result of a partnership between Poltimore House Trust, Devon County Council’s Public Health, Addaction and EDP drug and alcohol services, and other local organisations such as Exeter CVS and Gabriel House.


Dr Virginia Pearson, Devon’s Director of Public Health, said:  “We are really excited by this strategic and programmed approach to fund this ambitious and aspirational project.


“It will support pathways into recovery for an ever widening number of people and we are confident that it provides compelling solutions as well as value for money. Our “Step Forward – Transforming Lives” project is the vital first step to begin the process.


“Our past and ongoing work has already demonstrated significant improvement to the mental wellbeing of people working on the project. This project is transformational – both for service users and the Poltimore House site with which they are engaging.”


The funding will provide an immediate opportunity to increase capacity for those who can come to site and get involved, as well as increasing long term site sustainability, and the opportunity to further expand this scheme.


Money from the allocation will also provide poly tunnels at the site, which will enable opportunities for nursery growing work from which it is hoped to create an additional business and revenue stream, with the sale and use of produce and plants grown in the new poly tunnels


The House and its 13 acres of grounds represent a significant challenge to maintain and other funds from this grant allocation will be used to help with maintenance and upkeep of the grounds; improve access, upgrade pathways and develop income-generating opportunities for its long term sustainability.


Ashley Fawcett, Chairman of Poltimore House Trust, said: “The restoration and regeneration project work has developed a community ethos at its heart and working with its limited funds has already achieved good progress to stabilise the various buildings and to bring the grounds area under basic control.


“The project continues to be well supported by regular volunteers, including Friends of Poltimore House, community groups, corporate groups and visitors attracted to the site generally or for particular events.


“Poltimore House and its grounds lend themselves to a large range of learning and development opportunities including construction, horticultural, marketing and events management, catering and administration.


“We look forward to working with our partners on this project, and to continuing our journey of restoration and transformation.”


Several further bids for additional funding could shore up the project further if successful, and allow it to be expanded significantly


The work was featured in the Express and Echo on Monday 30th March.

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