Commander Mak Chishty, the Metropolitan Police Service’s most senior officer with regards to community and religious integration, visited the site of the new £20m Limelight health and wellbeing community hub in Trafford recently as part of a fact-finding mission.
Currently being built in the heart of the Old Trafford district by Trafford Housing Trust, when it officially opens later this year Limelight will be one of the UK’s most progressive and accessible community spaces – offering an integrated approach to health and wellbeing services, education and employment resources, leisure and social activities, and the provision of advice and support.
Facilities hosted by Limelight will include a new GP surgery and a pharmacy together with a library, café, restaurant and hairdressers. The scheme will address the issue of an aging population, and the needs of vulnerable people, through the provision of 81 extra care residential apartments and amenities to support independent living. In addition, Limelight will offer a nursery and a number of services aimed at families and young people, making it a truly intergenerational space which can be used by everyone.
Commander Chishty was accompanied on his visit to Limelight by Matthew Gardiner, Trafford Housing Trust’s Chief Executive; David Teasdale, Limelight’s recently appointed Centre Manager; Alex Atkinson, Project Manager from Identity Consult, John Morewood, Operations Manager for Willmott Partnership Homes and Pasha Shah, Senior Policy Adviser for community cohesion for the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG).
Following the tour of the Limelight site the group met with a number of local faith and community leaders at the neighbouring St Bride’s Church to discuss how Old Trafford has successfully evolved a genuinely multi-cultural and inclusive community, and to get Commander Chishty’s perspective and insights regarding tackling social, cultural and religious divisions in London.
Commander Chishty said: “I could tell as soon as we set foot on the site that Limelight is not going to be just another civic building badged as a ‘community centre’, and that it has been designed to be a fully integrated and inclusive space. Further, developments like this, which put a sense of place, belonging and neighbourliness at its heart, are one of the most effective ways to ensure community cohesion.
“The enthusiasm, commitment and pride expressed by the team behind the scheme also shone through during the tour, so much so I suggested it was re-named ‘Sunlight’ to capture the warmth and positivity of the project.
“I will be sharing my observations with colleagues and partners in London, including those from government, as I think we could all learn something from the Trust’s innovative and bold approach to the Limelight concept and the way it looks to help breakdown social, cultural and religious divisions by bringing people together.”
Matthew Gardiner, Trafford Housing Trust’s Chief Executive said: “It was a pleasure to be able to share with Commander Chishty the incredible work and vision that underpins the Limelight development. It was clear that he immediately understood what we are trying to do in terms of creating a place that can be accessed, used and enjoyed by the whole community, and also why such a cross-cultural and inter-generational resource helps to strengthen and unite communities.
I also liked his reasons for suggesting a name-change to ‘Sunlight’, but had to point out Limelight was the name chosen by the local community after extensive consultation and a public vote, and that changing it would be very much against our community partnership philosophy!.”
Rev Peter Matthews from St Bride’s Church, which was moved and re-built last year by Trafford Housing Trust and is immediately adjacent to Limelight, said: “To have so many different faiths and local communities represented during Commander Chishty’s visit to Limelight and St Bride’s is a testament to how the people of Old Trafford work together for the good of the whole neighbourhood. Limelight is set to be both a symbol of this unity and a key driver to ensure it thrives in the future, and hearing the Commander say it was the kind of exemplar project that he was keen to share with colleagues in London made me very proud that St Bride’s is, and will be, a major part of the Limelight story.”