Project to restore much-loved park boosted by cash seized from criminals

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An ambitious project to restore and enhance two much-loved areas of Colwyn Bay’s Eirias Park to make them more accessible has won vital funding from a scheme which hands out cash seized from criminals.

The Colwyn Bay Conservation and Environmental Federation are one of two winning groups in Conwy who have been awarded £2,500 from a special fund run by North Wales Police and Crime Commissioner Arfon Jones.

Your Community Your Choice grants Assistant Chief Constable Richard Debicki, Colwyn Bay Conservation Environment Federation’s Arnold Rigby and Ian Connor, North Wales Police and Crime Commissioner Arfon Jones and PACT Chairman David Williams.

The Federation have set up the Grow Wild and Eirias Park Footpath Projects to encourage more people to use the areas, enhance their enjoyment and foster the return of wildlife.

Federation Chairman Ian Connor said: “We want to open up the area near the entrance to Eirias Park and make it more attractive to people, both locals and visitors.

“We plan to cut back some of the bushes, put in new planting to provide more colour throughout the year and restore footpaths and build new ones.

“This money is very important to us as it means we can do much more than we had planned and we’re very grateful to the Your Community Your Choice fund.”

The Grow Wild Project includes building an earth-sheltered house and a native wetland garden with a recycled plastic boardwalk and interactive sculpture within the grounds of Eirias Park.

Ian Connor added: “We’ve also got a team of volunteers to keep the area open 365 days a year because it is very well used, particularly in the mornings and evenings.”

The Your Community, Your Choice initiative is also supported by the North Wales Police and Community Trust (PACT) which is celebrating its 20th anniversary in 2018.

It is the fifth year of the awards scheme and much of over £160,000 handed out to deserving causes in that time has been recovered through the Proceeds of Crime Act, using cash seized from offenders with the rest coming from the Police and Crime Commissioner.

The scheme is aimed at organisations who pledge to run projects to tackle anti-social behaviour and combat crime and disorder in line with the priorities in Commissioner’s Police and Crime Plan.

This year there are 14 grants totaling almost £40,000 given to support schemes by community organisations with an online vote deciding the successful applicants from among 35 projects submitted and almost 10,000 votes cast.

The Federation received their award at the annual Your Community, Your Choice presentation ceremony at North Wales Police headquarters in Colwyn Bay.

Conwy’s other successful scheme was Canolfan Dewi Sant Centre in Pensarn, Abergele, which received £2,500 towards enabling it to continue to provide facilities for over 30 community groups in an area of extreme poverty.

These include parenting classes and groups supporting substance abuse, mental health, parenting and education as well as a Job Club, Carers Support group, martial arts and a choir.

Theresa Curran, from the Centre, said: “This money is vitally important to us because we’re self-funding and it gives our users the security to know we can continue to provide facilities which are a lifeline to the support that so many of them need.”

North Wales Police and Crime Commissioner Arfon Jones, who jointly presented the awards with Assistant Chief Constable Richard Debicki, said: “I am delighted that my Your Community Your Choice fund continues to support community projects across north Wales for a sixth consecutive year.

“I recently launched my Social Value Policy which seeks to expand our support to local communities and ‘Your Community Your Choice’ provides me with an opportunity to do just that.

“This unique fund allows our communities to decide which projects should get financial support and the response showed that communities can work together to make our public places safer.

“I have visited a number of last year’s successful projects and have been extremely impressed with the work done to ensure that our communities continue to be some of the safest places to live, work and visit in the UK.

“Delivering Safer Neighbourhoods is one of my key priorities in my Police and Crime Plan and I am delighted that your organisations have developed projects that support this Plan.”

Assistant Chief Constable Richard Debicki said: “The funding which you have received has been made available by the Police and Crime Commissioner and through assets seized from criminals under the Proceeds of Crime Act.

“This is a particularly vital message as, through the professionalism of North Wales Police Officers and with the support of the Courts, we are able to hit the criminals where it hurts – in their pockets.

“This is the fifth year of Your Community Your Choice funding and during this time North Wales Police has recovered £2.3 million of cash and assets with £627,000 coming back to North Wales from the Home Office to support schemes such as this.

“It sends a really positive message that money taken from the pockets of criminals is being recycled. This is turning bad money into good.”

PACT chairman David Williams added: “We are delighted that we can assist in the administration of this fund.

“I think the breadth of our grant giving right across North Wales, from the tip of the west to the furthest part of the east, really sends a strong message to communities to access this money, it’s there for them.

“Very appropriately, one of the conditions is that the people who apply for this money have to be doing something that combats anti-social behaviour or addresses crime and disorder in some way.

“The aims Your Community, Your Choice scheme also coincide with the objectives of the Commissioner’s Police and Crime Plan so it creates a virtuous circle.”