A CEREMONY to mark the success of four-year campaign to build a £3m community centre in Wirral will be held this Friday.
Supporter Frank Field MP will cut the turf at the site opposite the fire station on the corner of Exmouth Street which will now be used for community services ranging from Surestart and Age Concern to offices for the Primary Care Trust.
Jo Burrell, of Wirral Waterfront, the project manager for the development, said there had been "quite a few obstacles" to over-come to get to this stage, and volunteers had worked hard to see their dream come to fruition.
She said: "It was rejected for planning on the original site, and then accepted on this location. But then it appeared it was possible the new site would be incorporated into the developer's proposals.
"They are all volunteers and have driven this forward over the last few years. This is not just a building; they want this to be a regeneration hub for Birkenhead."
Opponents had argued that the creation of the Lauries Centre would threaten the future development of Birkenhead town centre.
Aberdeen Property Investors had objected to the plans because they feared it would jeopardise a proposed £60m retail development.
The campaign for the community centre began when St Laurence's parish centre fell into disrepair and faced closure in 1999.
The community wanted to buy it, and asked for help from local groups and organisations.
Eventually, they were given a grant to carry out a feasibility study and it was found there were dozens of small groups which could be housed under one roof.
The project has had the backing of TV star Paul O'Grady (Lily Savage) and MP Frank Field.
Money for the scheme has come from Wirral Waterfront and the European funded Pathways organisations which have contributed £2m, plus £250,000 from Surestart and the same from Pathways Tranmere.
Retired telephone engineer and magistrate Mike Parkinson, one of the core group on the Lauries Project, said the scheme snow-balled in the community.
He said: "We thought everything was all right, and then when we were putting in for planning permission we found out there were objections, including one from Aberdeen Property." But Mr Parkinson said the support they received from local people and groups was "unbelievable" and the project was passed by the planning committee to the delight of community activists. Mr Parkinson added: "It's been four years of hard slog to get to this stage."
Cllr Pat Hackett, Wirral's executive member for economic regeneration and community planning, said the community centre had not put an end to plans for a massive redevelopment of Birkenhead, but he could not discuss it due to commercial confidentiality.
He said the proposals had been under discussion at a recent meeting of the cabinet, and the authority remains in discussions with "a number of parties".
Cllr Hackett added: "The Lauries is an exciting concept that shows the value and benefits of a partnership approach between the community and the council."