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Grow Ltd submits plans for essential upgrading of site

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AN AMBITIOUS £3m. project to promote wellbeing, self-esteem and fulfilment among islanders with learning disabilities is a step closer to reality now that a planning application has been submitted to the States.

Consultant architect Andrew Ozanne, left, Grow Ltd manager Eddie Higgins and project architect Emma Carter discuss the plans which will transform the charity’s St Sampson’s site. (Picture by Adrian Miller, 26356147)

Guernsey’s rural occupation workshop – Grow Ltd – is thriving and wants to upgrade and enhance its St Sampson’s site with new greenhouses and one consolidated building with a cafe.

The current clutter of ramshackle outbuildings and old greenhouses have reached the end of their lifespan – anything over a force eight wind means the greenhouses have to be closed and the workers sent home.

For the uninitiated, a stop-off at Grow is currently rather confusing because the site has a hodgepodge feel to it with odd parking arrangements.

Project architect Emma Carter, from Grey Bear Chartered Architects, said the aim was to create something more welcoming, visually appealing and fit for purpose, while staying true to Grow’s founding ethos.

‘We’re looking to enhance and expand the display area for plants on the roadside because that is the real window of what Grow does and it’s what people see.

‘We want to provide better greenhouses that are wind and watertight. At the moment they are unsafe and they’re at a stage in their lives that they need to be replaced.

‘By consolidating all of these current outbuildings into one new building we can provide a building that not only caters for a greater number of crew, but it will also have accessibility and enhanced facilities in a warm and dry environment, and we can formalise the parking and drop-off areas.’

Grow celebrated its 35th anniversary this year and its main goal is to offer people with learning disabilities the chance to learn horticultural skills that can lead to jobs in local businesses.

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However, it goes a lot deeper than that because it is also a path to wellbeing, the opportunity to improve social skills, and a routine and structure to people’s days.

Through gardening it changes lives, and manager Eddie Higgins said it wants to build on its success.

‘We are restricted on the amount of people we have here at the moment, and a little bit more open space and open planning will allow us to look after probably double that number of people.

‘There’s also an interest from other charities who see the opportunity in using the therapeutic environment here to look after their own clients, for example Guernsey Alzheimer’s and Dementia.’

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The team behind the project are keeping their fingers crossed that the planning hurdle will be overcome and then they will be full steam ahead on fundraising.

Ms Carter said submitting the planning application was a clear statement to the public of ambition and inclusiveness.

‘We’ve really tried to think from all directions, so from how the public see, how the crew work, where the funding comes from, everything’s been considered and that’s why we’re at the stage of having submitted the planning application because everyone feels comfortable that it is ambitious, but yes it’s the direction that Grow wants to take in its anniversary year.’

Helen Bowditch

By Helen Bowditch
News reporter

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