Disabled play centre saved from closure by TV makeover team

Presenter Nick Knowles points the way
Presenter Nick Knowles points the way
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A CLOSURE-THREATENED play centre for disabled young people has been saved thanks to a TV makeover show.

BBC One’s DIY SOS is undertaking a major revamp of The Yard, a free adventure play centre which caters for children and young people aged three to 25, as part of Children in Need.

Tradesmen hard at work

Tradesmen hard at work

The Canonmills facility – the only play centre of its kind in the east of Scotland – welcomes around 1500 people through its doors each week to make use of its family-run sessions, pre-school activities and youth clubs.

But the cash-strapped centre, which opened in 1986, had become increasingly run down and was facing closure.

Celine Sinclair, The Yard’s chief executive, said: “This is completely overwhelming. We’re delighted for our children and families, as they deserve the best.

“It’s our 25th birthday this year and this is the best present we could have had. Hopefully now we will be going for another 25 years.

“It was very difficult for us to renovate the centre as we are in there from 9am to 9pm, six days a week. Now all of the funding we raise can go towards the service and not on patching things up.”

On completion of the project, 100 tradesmen who have offered their services free of charge will have donated 10,000 man hours.

DIY SOS build manager Mark Millar said: “The tradesmen have come along in the nick of time – I truly believe they have saved this place.

“The Yard is so important to families, it’s a little sanctuary.”

The facelift sees the introduction of new play equipment, the regeneration of old favourites including the go-kart track and boat swing, and the installation of a disabled-friendly kitchen.

Work is also under way to ensure that the centre, which currently costs £1336 per day to run, is energy efficient.

Canonmills’ Hannah Preston, 17, who copes with Down’s syndrome, is a frequent user of the centre.

Her father, David, 47, is helping with the transformation on site. Mum Jane, 42, said: “It’s very important for Hannah to have somewhere to go and to socialise. I don’t know what we would have done if the centre had closed.

“There’s nowhere else you can leave your child on her own so that they can have some time away from you – and that’s very important for them.”

The Yard has to raise £300,000 a year to deliver its services and receives just eight per cent of its funding from government sources.

Presenter Nick Knowles said: “The centre is a fantastic place, but it was in a sorry state when we first arrived.

“Our team works as a catalyst – the build is being done by the people of Edinburgh and further afield who are coming in each day and donating their time.”

The episode will be broadcast in the week of Children in Need in December.