Just over two years after our incredible £22.4 million win from the Stronger Towns Fund, construction work is starting on the early projects. It is extremely exciting, and potentially transformational for Herefordshire.
First up is the Castle Green Pavilion, which I visited the other day. Led by a brilliant team headed by Paddy Nugent, this project will turn the old pavilion into a fantastic new community space and café, while enhancing the canoe club areas below and greatly improving accessibility all round.
The design is very clever. It restores the old building, including the classical facade, but adds a beautiful and elegant new café space. The construction team are already on site, and the new building will start to take shape in the coming months.
No less exciting is the new investment in the skatepark. Hereford skatepark is already widely recognised as one of the best regional skateparks in the UK, drawing in boarders and riders from across the region, and even from as far as London. Better still, it is a fully community-led project, managed and led by the local charity Wheeled Sports 4 Hereford.
The new plans will include a street course, as well as a twisting and turning "snake", designed to offer greater challenges even to experienced users. The skateable area will increase by over 50%, and there will be more capacity to hold social events, all of which should contribute to the skatepark's long-term financial sustainability.
But like all new things, the skatepark also creates a further challenge. There is a fantastic opportunity now to extend local skateboarding and leisure facilities for young people, by building a new multi-use games area near the sports centre in Ross-on-Wye, and upgrading and expanding the existing skatepark there.
Working with the brilliant Marc Russell, and with the support of Ross Mayor Louis Stark, I have been encouraging Herefordshire Council to work with Ross Town Council on a development plan for this area.
The path is clear, in principle: an asset transfer of the existing site, including a little-used part of the council car park; a small first round of local fundraising in order to get some outline plans developed; and then a fully costed plan for the site that we can use to raise substantial funding from public bodies such as Sports England and local private businesses and individuals.
This too is a fantastic opportunity. Let's go for it.
Photo: Jesse with Paddy Nugent at Castle Green Pavilion