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New lease for community learning centre and bike project

We will continue to help residents learn new skills and get their lives back on track after we agreed to support our borough's brilliant bike project for a further five years. 

The new five-year lease for the Guildford Community Learning Centre at 109 Southway in Guildford, will allow Surrey Lifelong Learning Partnership (SLLP) to offer social enterprise activities and learning courses as well as provide affordable refurbished bikes through their Bike Project Surrey. 

Leader of the Council, Cllr Joss Bigmore says: 

"The benefits of Bike Project Surrey and the Guildford Community Learning Centre have been huge and we are happy that this new lease will extend our support into a 14th year. For both students and adults, it is a chance to improve their employment opportunities, build confidence, develop social skills and reduce loneliness and isolation. 

"The Bike Project's Cycle Maintenance qualification can make a great difference to people who might otherwise leave school with no qualifications at all. I know of one young person who arrived after exclusion from school and has gone on to study Motor Mechanics at a local college. I hope that Surrey Lifelong Learning Partnership can continue their work to create even more of these success stories which help everyone in our borough." 

Chief Executive of Surrey Lifelong Learning Project, Kevin Delf says:

"The Charity's Trustees, staff and volunteers are delighted that the Council has decided to renew the lease. We are keen to continue to work locally and offer support and opportunities for people to learn locally."

Launched in 2012, and located at 109 Southway since 2013, The Bike Project refurbishes donated bikes, provides free skills training and work experience for local job seekers and young people. The bikes are then sold at a reduced price and the income is used to fund the project. Each year, 1,500 bikes are refurbished or recycled, many of which are sold via 109 Southway.

The Bike Project offers students who are not in school an alternative to mainstream education and a chance to get a qualification in Cycle Maintenance and Repair from The Institute of the Motor Industry. Qualifications are available at Levels 1, 2 or 3, with a Level 3 certificate the equivalent of an A Level. It also offers work experience placements and mechanics training for adults who are not in work, education or employment.

The Bike Project has now reopened after being forced to close during the pandemic. The shop is currently open on Wednesday and Thursday to provide carbon-free transport options for local residents and students alike.

The Guildford Community Learning Centre has also hosted SLLP's programme of free training and support courses in a range of subjects including IT, business advice, debt management, mental health, confidence building, employment skills, job interview techniques, and maths and English, as well as weekly art and chess clubs. During the Coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic, it became the new home for their Park Barn Learning Centre and at the moment has a four-week waiting list.

Current attendees referred to the Centre include former offenders, via the Probation Service, and people with physical and mental health problems.

The space has also been used by local organisations including Warmth Matters, who help people pay or reduce their energy bills, IT charity Make it Click, cooking charity Foodwise, financial services charity Boom Credit Union and Young Mother Midwifery Services, who help young mothers back into education.

The Guildford Community Learning Centre garden, at the back of the building, is being used as a community space for respite and free allotments in collaboration with Zero Carbon Guildford and its food security programme.

As part of its ongoing series of expert talks, on Thursday 24 June, World Food Programme Logistics Officer and Nobel Laureate Zeff Kapoor will talk about his 28 years with the world's largest humanitarian organization.

SLLP work to help people in Surrey and beyond who may have missed out on learning in the past by giving them opportunities to learn and to reach their full potential.

Guildford Philanthropy, which we set-up in 2014 with The Community Foundation for Surrey to help disadvantaged members of our community, has donated over £7,000 to the Bike Project to fund cycle mechanic training for young adults who are struggling to find employment, and to create a new workshop to fix more bikes. 

Previously home to a video rental business, the shop was refurbished in 2013 by ourselves, SLLP, Guildford College, Surrey County Council and property consultants Tuffin Ferraby Taylor.