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‘A beautiful buzzing pillar of the community’ - group’s £800,000 fundraising bid to buy garden centre

PUBLISHED: 11:58 30 June 2020 | UPDATED: 16:50 02 July 2020

Lou Gardiner and her daughter Lauren Gardiner, ACE'’s general manager. Picture: supplied by Lou Gardiner

Lou Gardiner and her daughter Lauren Gardiner, ACE'’s general manager. Picture: supplied by Lou Gardiner

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A charitable organisation hopes to raise £800,000 to transform a former garden centre into a training and development centre for disadvantaged people.

The former Aylsham Garden Centre in 2018. Picture: DENISE BRADLEYThe former Aylsham Garden Centre in 2018. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Action Community Enterprises (ACE), which was founded by Lou Gardiner in 2011, provides education and training through a range of projects, courses and study programmes to schoolchildren, young people and adults.

It plans to buy Aylsham Garden Centre, which closed down last October, and is being sold by online auction on July 22.

Mrs Gardiner, ACE managing director, said: “The project’s aim is that ACE will trade, train and support. We will open the garden centre, shop and café as a community driven business, give it its rightful place as a beautiful, buzzing pillar of the community.

“Our concept is designed to regenerate the economy through building innovative and creative problem solving, positive actions to help young people, adults, families, communities and businesses to rebuild.

Lou Gardiner and her daughter Lauren Gardiner of the charitable organisation Action Community Enterprises (ACE) hopes to raise �800,000 to transform Aylsham Garden Centre into a training and development centre for disadvantaged people. Picture: Denise Bradley/supplied by Lou GardinerLou Gardiner and her daughter Lauren Gardiner of the charitable organisation Action Community Enterprises (ACE) hopes to raise �800,000 to transform Aylsham Garden Centre into a training and development centre for disadvantaged people. Picture: Denise Bradley/supplied by Lou Gardiner

“We are in the process of accessing funds to make this project happen, and launching a GoFundMe page. We are looking to raise £800,000.

“We want to collaborate as much as possible with individuals, other VCSE (voluntary, community and social enterprise sector) and businesses.”

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Mrs Gardiner runs ACE with her daughter Lauren Gardiner, who manages the day-to-day running of its Rackheath base, together with a team of dedicated staff. It is now helping individuals between the ages of seven and 65.

MORE: Garden centre in three acres goes up for sale

Auction House said that the garden centre in Norwich Road offers lots of potential, and could possibly be reopened for another use, subject to planning permission.

It has 10,000 sq ft of selling space with a plant nursery area and large customer car park.

Auction House describes it as having “development potential” which could be “reopened with minimal investment”.

It was once owned by Gary Woodley, who was jailed for stealing £480,000 from his elderly mother, and lost his business as a result of his actions.

Organisations that want to get involved in the project should call ACE on 01603 702308 or email lou.gardiner@ace-project.org.uk


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