Tireless Jill’s dream moves a step closer

An artist's impression of the development
An artist's impression of the development

THE JPK Project has finally secured a site for its multi-million pound independent living development for people with severe learning difficulties.

After years of fundraising, the charity’s offer to purchase the Edgmond Evangelical Church in Church Street, Old Town, for £600,000 has been accepted.

The sale of the church buildings and its land is subject to contract and planning permission but Jill Parker, founder of the JPK Project, is confident she and the trustees can now work to make the scheme a success.

Mrs Parker said, “I am really excited that at long last we truly do seem to have a site.”

The church will join with Frenchgate Christian Fellowship in Hampden Park to become the Gateway Christian Centre. The church plans to use the proceeds from Old Town to create a bigger building in Hampden Park.

Mrs Parker said, “Edgmond Church had been considering amalgamating with their sister church in Hampden Park for some time and it was being kept close to their chests.

“However, it was through Derek Kemp, CPL Architects, our architect partners, who learnt of their future plans for their site. He thought of the JPK and mentioned it to me. I considered it ideal, as it is situated in the heart of the Old Town community, near Eastbourne Town Centre, on a bus route and local facilities.

“Edgmond Evangelical Church, apart from their Christian ethos, has always upheld the community spirit and I believe they saw the JPK as continuing their aspirations.”

The church was keen to accept the offer from The JPK Project and even turned down the offer of a bid from a supermarket chain because it supports Mrs Parker’s dream.

This will enable Mrs Parker and the JPK trustees to start building 16 en suite studio apartments with communal gardens, a social area and offices. They will keep the existing church and use it as a tearooms, kitchen, bakery and quality charity shop where the residents and non-residents will be able take part in work experience and training.

JPK will also demolish the existing church hall and offices behind the church to make way for eight flatlets which will have access to Brightland Road and will provide a home for people who are able to live more independently but need assistance from time to time.

Mrs Parker founded the project because her daughter Katie has a severe learning difficulty. Mrs Parker said she, like many other parents and carers, is excited her daughter will be able to live independently but explained it would be a big step.

“People with learning difficulties sometimes find it difficult to comprehend what living independently actually means,” said Mrs Parker.

“As parents we all have trouble letting go and when the time comes I will probably be a nervous wreck, but I know it will be better for her and she will be mixing with people her own age.”

The project is expected to cost £3-4 million and a major fundraising appeal is starting soon. Mrs Parker also told the Herald she will be applying for grants. Once the building is complete and the residents have moved in, the project is expected to be self-sufficient with the tenants paying their way with the benefits they receive. Money will also come in from the on-site tearooms, bakery, kitchen and charity shop.

The JPK Project hopes to have planning consent within the next six months the centre open in two years.

Mrs Parker says the millions of pounds needed is achievable but is calling on locals to fundraise for the project. Anyone who can help is asked to contact her on 486179 or email jillparkerjpk1@tiscali.co.uk.