Wiltshire charity Alzheimer’s Support has announced plans to convert an industrial building in Warminster into an innovative Dementia Centre.

The award-winning charity is seeking planning permission to renovate The Old Silk Works in Beech Road as a day club and resource centre that promises to transform the lives of people affected by dementia in the town.  

Pride of place will be the spacious day club on the first floor of the building, reached by a stunning new entrance bridge.

As well as the club, with places for 48 people each week, plans include space for singing, art and exercise sessions and a garden area. There will also be offices for dementia advisers and for staff running Alzheimer’s Support’s growing network of community services in Warminster and across South Wiltshire.

Chief executive Babs Harris said: “We are thrilled to have found this wonderful building and are so excited about our plans to transform it. We have had great support from many people in Warminster and are looking forward to working with the community to create something really special.”

Welcomed by so many people

Bernice Robbins, who cared for her late husband with dementia and now volunteers as Warminster’s Carers’ Champion, said: “I am absolutely thrilled that this is happening. We have needed something like this in the area for a very long time. 

“It will make an enormous difference to people who have dementia, to those looking after them and to the many who will, sadly, be affected in the future. At the moment people have to travel to Trowbridge or Salisbury for day care or other services and it is just too far. I feel enthusiasm, gratitude and relief that this is underway and hope that it can open soon. It will be so welcomed by so many people. ”

Architect Jack Konynenburg, who is donating his time to the scheme, said: “This is a very exciting project for the town and I am so proud to be involved in it. It is a beautiful late Victorian building, long and thin because of stretching out the silk, and the first floor where the day club will be, has a wonderful light from the windows on both sides.”

Bridge solution to design challenge

The greatest design challenge for Mr Konynenburg was finding a way to access the first floor without using a lift which is unsuitable for people with dementia.

He said: “We thought, why not build a bridge? We looked at six or seven different ways of doing it and what we have come up with really enhances the building and is quite beautiful. Usually the disabled access is tucked around the side of the building but here it is right at the heart of the design.”

He added: “The other wonderful thing is it so well located. It is small industrial estate but unusually it is in the middle of a residential area and has a feeling of belonging to a community. The building was in use as a silk works until the late 1950s and for others uses since then so will have a resonance and hold memories for the community. People will have been employed on that site for a long time and it is so good to be bringing back some of that vibrancy.”

Chris Lusty, who runs a design and product business on the site and who represents the landowner, said the Dementia Centre and its welcoming, landmark entrance, would drive the wider revitalisation of the site. He said: “This has blossomed into an extraordinary project with the investment of time from some really talented people.”

Alzheimer’s Support is hoping to secure planning permission in September and will then invite the community to an event to explain the plans further and launch a fundraising appeal to help transform the building.