ASHTON CENTRE HOME
The Ashton Centre was conceived as a community initiative in 1985 and was originally based in a small office on the Antrim Road. The current Ashton Centre opened for business in 1991 as a Centre for Enterprise and Community Development serving the New Lodge area of North Belfast, operating out of new premises which had been built through grant funding and loans from International Fund for Ireland and Community Economic Regeneration Scheme, as well as the proceeds of a share issue to local residents. Ashton Community Trust (ACT) is a registered charity and was formed in 1992 under a trust deed, before being established as a company limited by guarantee in 1998.
Over its 14-year history the Ashton Centre has reacted to the needs of the local community and the emphasis of the work has shifted accordingly. The initial phase as a community co-operative gave way to a greater concentration on economic, social and business development. Over the past 10 years the balance has shifted towards the role of a development agency, proactive in a range of areas affecting the local community, such as employment, health, education and social needs. At all times the Ashton Centre has maintained a community development ethos, with an emphasis on responding to and serving the needs of the local population.
The Ashton Centre comprises offices and meeting rooms for community use, with a number of ground floor shop units and workspace units. It is owned by Ashton Centre Development Limited (ACDL), an industrial provident, whose primary activity is the letting of office and workshop space to local businesses, (both privately owned and social economy businesses) and community projects. Current tenants include a GP surgery, hairdressers, grocery shop and a car repair workshop.
ACT is engaged in the delivery of various projects aimed at social and economic regeneration of the local area. These include employment outreach, education and training, social economy businesses, community empowerment, and childcare.
Projects are financed through direct funding from a variety of statutory and charitable sources, as well as self-generated income. Funders include NBCAU, Urban II, BRO, BLSP, CRC, CFNI, NIPPA, Playboard, EGSA, Arts Council and NOF.
ACT has also initiated and supported projects with a wider North Belfast context, such as the North Belfast Tourism Initiative, Belfast Safaris and Greencastle CEP.