Plans to create a new sensory room for young children at a North Tyneside community centre are set to move forward thanks to support from the local branch of Newcastle Building Society.
The team at the Linskill & North Tyneside Community Development Trust have been looking at how they might convert an empty room in the Linskill Centre on Trevor Terrace in North Shields into a new facility which can aid the development of children under eight years old from across local communities.
Sensory rooms contain equipment such as colour changing bubble tubes, portable wireless fibre optic strands, textured sensory balls and ‘sensation path’ textured floor panels, all of which is designed to help stimulate primary senses, build emotional resilience and improve learning.
As part of their research for the project, the Linskill team visited the sensory room at St Oswald’s Hospice in Gosforth to get some ideas for how the new facility, which will be used by around 100 pre-school children, might be put together.
And now, after being put forward for a grant by Simeon Ripley, a customer at Newcastle Building Society’s North Shields branch and the chief executive of the Trust, a £1,000 Society donation has enabled the Trust to commission a specialist firm to design and install the sensory room for them.
The Trust is aiming to have the new room open by June, and will then continue to raise money to allow for even more equipment to be brought in over time.
The funding has been provided from the Newcastle Building Society Community Fund at the Community Foundation, which has been set up to provide grants to charities and community groups that are located in or around the communities served by the Society’s branch network, and put forward for support by its customers.
The Linskill & North Tyneside Community Development Trust is a registered charity which took over the running of the Linskill Centre in 2003 and now provides a permanent base there for around 30 voluntary organisations and community groups.
Projects already run by the Trust include a community cafe, nursery, heritage research projects, and activities and events for older people.
Around 3,500 people already use the Linskill Centre every year, and the Trust is hoping that the new sensory room will help to further increase this number.
Shirley Robinson, nursery manager at the Linskill Centre, says: “Sensory rooms provide an environment in which young children with developmental needs can better express themselves, learn new behaviours or simply enjoy spending positive time with their family and friends.
“Our initial idea was to use it just for the children who come to our nursery, but by opening up to the wider community, we’ll be able to reach and help the maximum number of local families.  
“There’s no other facility like this in our area, and we believe it will make a positive difference to the development and achievements of so many local children who would otherwise not have been able to access this sort of support.
“Newcastle Building Society’s generous support has enabled us to get the project properly off the ground, and once the room is open, we’ll be continuing to fundraise so that we can keep adding new equipment to it as time progresses.”
Simeon Ripley adds: “The Trust’s aim is to provide the most comprehensive range of services for local children and their families as we can in an environment where local authority budgets for these sorts of projects are extremely stretched, and being able to open the sensory room with the Society’s support is an excellent example of how we’re working to do this.”
The Newcastle Building Society Community Fund is run in association with the Community Foundation Tyne & Wear and Northumberland.  Grant applications for a maximum of £3,000 can be made in any Society branch or via the by customers who wish to support their local communities.
Stephen Burt, branch manager at the Society’s Bedford Street branch in North Shields, adds: “The Linskill team’s plans will benefit dozens of local children and their families, and we’re already excited to how the new sensory room will look when it opens in the summer.
“The Society works hard to support the communities in which it is based, and we hope this funding will encourage even more local people to take advantage of all the different opportunities that the Linskill Centre offers.”
For more information on the work of the Linskill & North Tyneside Community Development Trust, please