The Cotmanhay Enterprise Centre was set up in an unused and near derelict building that was part of Bennerley School in what was and still is a deprived area of Erewash.
The refurbished Centre was supported from 1997-2002 by the Government’s Single Regeneration Budget and public money from other sources including European Social Fund helped it to continue, enabling residents to access education in a supportive and non-threatening environment.
The Centre – which was used by a staggering and impressive figure of more than 1,000 people a year to get training, education, and community advice – was that the many activities were community-led.
The Centre was the brainchild of former Cotmanhay resident and Partnership chief executive Ian Viles. In 1997 Ian was inspired by a lecture he heard with the theme ‘learning pays’ and he thought of a centre that offered people a supportive atmosphere to build confidence through attending courses on a range of subjects and practical activities.
However, the Partnership has been affected by the financial difficulties in the public and private sector and directors were forced to close the centre in May 2011 as external funding dwindled and stopped.
Chris Pienaar, who worked on a regeneration programme called Local Alchemy, funded by East Midlands Development Agency, said the centre stood out as a beacon of good practice. This was because the centre was staffed by local people who cared for it and because of a good working relationship between the Partnership and local government.