AN ENVIRONMENTAL PROJECT that aims to give workplace skills to young people hit hard by the pandemic has been backed by a community charity.

The Friends of the Cob on Marsh Road in Rhyl have had their joinery workshop equipped with brand new tools by the North Wales Police and Community Trust (PACT).

The selection of blades for electric table, band and chop saw machines plus dust masks will be used to help local people badly affected by the isolation of lockdown to gain experience, skills and qualifications to help them build new careers.

It’s part of a major community project by the Friends which includes a small plant nursery, The Potting Shed, growing flowers and vegetables for sale, an £11,000 sawmill, the joinery workshop and plans to transform an overgrown wasteland at Glan Morfa, off Marsh Road, into gardens and an orchard.

The Friends of the Cob woodwork shop, with, from left, Lee Hinchliffe, Training Officer Nick Hodge, Susie Ingram, Carol Hiscox, Josh Hodge, Leon Clancy and Liam Jones

Local Denbighshire County Councillor Pete Prendergast, Chair of The Friends, said: “The idea for the workshop came about to provide something for people from 16 up who weren’t really catered for.

“We have up to six people there learning traditional woodworking skills and they can even gain an NVQ Level One with at least three local firms interested in taking them on.

“These are young people, some of whom would never leave their rooms, who through being involved here have gained confidence and a real purpose in life, so much so that almost all the things used here are made in that workshop.”

Among those benefiting is Lee Hinchliffe, 37, from Rhyl, who said: “I’ve been here just over two months and it’s changed my life.

“I had locked myself away because of Covid but I thought I’d give this a go and I’ve learned so much already and hopefully I will be involved in running the sawmill when it comes here.

“If it wasn’t for this place I’d still be locked in my room.”

PACT Chairman Ashley Rogers, from Prestatyn, paid the club a visit along with the High Sheriff of Clwyd, Steve Thomas, and he said: “What I really like is that it’s so all-inclusive here and spans the whole community, from 16 to 60.

“It’s also giving young people here the opportunity to learn new skills and build their confidence in a safe and friendly environment while supporting sustainable communities and a circular economy.

“I’m really happy that PACT are able to support such a worthwhile project by providing funding for tools and other essential equipment.

Friends woodworker Lee Hinchliffe

“The ability to interact with others in a social but safe setting while learning new skills especially after 18 months of Covid lockdown is so important when so many people have been isolated socially.

“I’m especially impressed by the scale of the project here and am pleased that we’ve been able to help by providing key funding.

“Friends of the Cob should be proud of the difference they are making in Rhyl and the next stages of the project look even more exciting for the local community.”

The application to PACT was made by Police and Community Support Officer Anna Algieri who said: “The Friends of the Cob operate in one of the most deprived areas in Wales and offer the opportunity to learn new skills and gain confidence and life skills.

“It is seen as a safe, friendly environment and an opportunity to learn without the need to pay for expensive materials or equipment.

“The workshop is run by local volunteers which has made the charity very welcoming to people suffering with learning disabilities and mental health issues as they are able to attend and be themselves which encourages their ability to learn.”

The Friends of the Cob project is just one of many that have been supported by PACT, an independent charity launched in 1998 to support community initiatives, particularly those in which the police are involved.

In that time it has helped over 2,500 projects, investing in between 70 and 100 projects every year in communities across North Wales.

Ashley Rogers added: “For many who are involved in the projects, this is their first interaction with the police, so making this a positive experience can have profound consequences on their future life choices.

“From Gwynedd in the west across to Flintshire and Wrexham in the east, PACT continues to support projects that enable positive and sustainable community development and this has never been more important than right now in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic.”

PACT offer a range of grants of up to £2,000 for community projects – for more details and how to apply go to https://www.pactnorthwales.co.uk/applications-ceisiadau/