Clow Beck Centre expansion gets approval

A scheme credited with transforming the lives of numerous young people with learning and social difficulties is set to expand to enable military families to spend quality time together.

Richmondshire District councillors unanimously approved plans by the Clervaux and Ruskin Mill trusts to extend facilities that have been established on a 100-acre site off Jolby Lane, Croft on Tees for more than a decade.

The Clow Beck Centre provides opportunities for young people and adults to develop work and life skills by engaging in animal husbandry, horticulture, blacksmithing, green woodwork, pottery, wool preparation, felting and weaving.

The facilities are supported by residential homes for service users and further learning opportunities at an organic café and artisan bakery in Coniscliffe Road, Darlington.

The practical skills therapeutic education model used by the trust seeks to “re-imagine the potential of young people through a range of activities based on agriculture and land-related and other appropriate crafts”.

A spokesman for the trust said the approach had been proven to “transform the lives, not only of young people, but provide therapeutic benefits to others with similar challenges”.

The meeting was told while the centre’s work was widely admired, its work with young mothers and the families of service personnel had been restricted due to a lack of space, leading to a planning application to create buildings and a car park.

Members heard ‘The Fold’ development, which has been in development for two years, would extend opportunities to military personnel and their families, put under pressure by frequent moves, school changes and time apart, by establishing a family centre and a building to house animals. The skills centre would also enable the military families to spend time away from technology.

An officers’ report to the meeting stated: “The close proximity of the animals to both the family centre and the Clervaux Life building is considered to be essential in providing therapeutic benefits that animal husbandry has been proven to bring to individuals and family groups.”

Funding for the project has received support from Government coffers created from fines banks paid for Libor frauds and backing from a wide range of organisations, including Help for Heroes, the Army Welfare Service and Phoenix House Recovery Centre, Catterick Garrison.

After the meeting, a spokeswoman for the scheme said: “It will mean so much. We will now be able to get some incredible work done.”