A Larne-based social enterprise company has announced plans to establish a community allotment project in the town.
Acceptable Enterprises Larne (AEL), a service and manufacturing business which makes parts, accessories and components for a wide range of industries, hopes to transform a patch of derelict land behind its Centre Point premises on Pound Street into 160 raised allotments.
The £114,000 scheme aims to tackle local unemployment and help disadvantaged people, such as those with mental health issues.
Funding for the project is being sought from the Social Investment Fund (SIF), which was set up by the NI Executive to help make life better for people living in areas of deprivation by reducing poverty, unemployment and physical deterioration.
David Hunter, CEO of AEL told the Times: “The scheme will provide clients with the opportunity to engage in regular, structured forms of outdoor activity.
“This in many ways resembles employment; working as a team, task setting, turning up on time receiving and giving instruction.
“As a result, self confidence, self motivation and self esteem are all given a boost. Such benefits are vital to people as they seek to find employment.”
It is anticipated that the scheme will create up to three jobs directly.
Mr Hunter also said the project would help people who suffer from poor mental or physical health and find themselves “on the fringes of society”.
He added: “There is an abundance of evidence to show that allotment-based activity provides physical and psychological benefits from those that become involved.
“The derelict site is also a hotspot for anti-social behaviour, and so redevelopment will provide a positive shared space for the community.”
AEL is currently trying to gauge support for the project and determine who would be interested in using it.
Mr Hunter said: “We envisage the allotments would be used by a mixture of community groups and individuals. For example, if we created 160 allotments, we could keep 60 for community-based use and rent 100 for individual use.
“At this stage we don’t have an idea of prices, but we will be seeking to be competitive with other allotments.”
Mr Hunter added that work on the project can begin straight away, subject to approval of SIF funding.
“There is an existing access road from Pound Street and planning consent for the project is not needed,” Mr Hunter said.
“Our lease on the Centre Point building and the grounds to the rear means we have security of tenure, and the landlord is happy for us to proceed,” he concluded.
Anyone who would be interested in making use of the proposed allotments is asked to register their interest by contacting Laura Steele at AEL on 028 2827 4992.