Creating opportunities for regeneration and stronger communities through collaboration
Jenny Lynn is a key founding member of Halifax Opportunities Trust (HOT), who paved the way for the Trust to thrive through the inspiring work she delivered as Chief Executive of the West Central Halifax Partnership (WCHP); a seven-year Single Regeneration Budget (SRB) programme focussed on Park ward.
With experience of similar neighbourhood regeneration schemes in Manchester, Jenny moved to Halifax in 1995 to lead the programme, which had a profound impact throughout Halifax, with a legacy that remains to this day. We’re really proud that Jenny has remained a supporter of the Trust and of the valuable contribution she has made to strengthen communities and create opportunities throughout Park ward and beyond.
What first attracted Jenny to the WCHP programme was the plan to set-up a Community Development Trust before funding came to an end, which is what we now call Halifax Opportunities Trust. HOT is officially 21, as we began to operate once WCHP completed its seven-year programme in March 2002. However, Jenny worked hard to ensure this was the case, which meant that HOT actually did exist prior to this date; it was registered with the Charity Commission on 18th April 2001 and the launch party was held on 12th June 2001. This ensured awareness and operations were established, ready for completion.
Through her time at WCHP Jenny led many significant initiatives, mainly focussed on increasing community involvement and creating strong connections with local organisations, to drive positive changes within Park ward that met the demands of the communities who lived and worked there. Jenny reminisces:
“We were doing some great things with the SRB programme – backing local schools, supporting local businesses, getting derelict sites developed, working with community organisations like Himmat and St. Augustine’s Centre, getting local people involved in running a summer festival in People’s Park – and we wanted to find a way to keep up the momentum if we could.”
Planning For The Future
After about three years, Jenny and her team began to think about how a Community Development Trust would work to continue driving progress, after the seven-years were over. The grassroots of operations were very much established within Park ward, and as work continued Jenny saw this having a positive impact throughout Halifax. A key area to this success this was the strong community connections Jenny and her team had built.
In fact, many of the founding board members of the Trust were key community figures. Through the strong relationships with community organisations and charities that had been built, it was evident that working in partnership could offer valuable input as plans for HOT developed. Jenny recalls:
“We managed to persuade local resident, and leader of the Himmat project, Mohammed Aslam, to become vice chair of our West Central Halifax Partnership Board a year or two before the end of the SRB scheme, so that he could step into the role of Chairing the Board of the new HOT.”
Leaving a Legacy
While Jenny and her team had put many plans in place to ensure a smooth transition from WCHP to HOT, there were still many challenges she had to overcome for this to happen. Work on building and developing the Trust began around 1998-99, around four years before operations started. Jenny reflects:
“Setting up the Trust was pretty complicated!
We knew that we wanted it to be strongly based in Park ward, but also believed we had something really positive to offer the rest of Halifax, hence the name – I think it was our finance officer, Robin Prescott, who added the word “Opportunities” then “Trust”.
Back then the WCHP had been working from an old BT base on Hanson Lane, Halifax. This became the flagship site of operations; based in the heart of Park ward, it meant that Jenny and her team were in close contact with residents and business owners regularly.
Now known as Hanson Lane Enterprise Centre, it was officially opened by (then) HRH Prince of Wales in 1999. To this day a lot of HOT’s core services and projects are delivered here, however handing it over to HOT was not a simple task. Jenny shares:
“The legal complexities of transferring our first HQ, the Hanson Lane Enterprise Centre, to the new Trust proved to be really difficult and frustrating at times. In fact, I sometimes think that the reason I stayed on in Halifax right until 2002, instead of heading off for another regeneration programme job somewhere else, was sheer bloody-mindedness – I wasn’t going to go until I knew the Trust would get its first asset transferred from the Council, according to original vision for the SRB…”
A New Trust
In 2002 HOT carried on where the brilliant work of WHCP left off. Jenny was still involved with the Trust once it became established. She was on the HOT Board of Trustees for 15 years, offering valuable contribution and priceless knowledge that has supported HOT in becoming the organisation it is today. Jenny says:
“I was very honoured to have been allowed to remain on the board of the Trust for 15 years.“
Jenny remains connected to Park ward and HOT as a great supporter to this day. She has been Park ward Councillor since 2016, which means she often gets involved with community events and engagement activities linked with the Trust.
A Community Enterprise
In the early days HOT was very much focused on regeneration and creating learning and employment opportunities for local residents of Park ward and throughout Halifax. While these areas remain a focus for the Trust, as it has grown so has its delivery, which now encompasses a range of programmes that create opportunities for people, families, businesses and communities to thrive.
While Jenny was on the board, she witnessed many significant and encouraging developments. From celebrating the opening of Jubilee Children’s Centre to the acquisition of the Elsie Whiteley Innovation Centre and build of the Outback, Jenny has been there through many of the Trust’s major milestones. She shares:
“The programmes to develop confidence and skills amongst women in the community have been really brilliant, and have changed the lives of hundreds and hundreds of people for the better.
“I’m also immensely proud of how the Trust has grown into a key partner for the Council in the ongoing economic and social regeneration of the borough – and the way in which the Trust got together with other local anchor organisations to pull out all the stops in response to the pandemic was awesome”
As we celebrate our 21st Anniversary, we are looking back on the many opportunities we have created for individuals, families, businesses and the community. This means something different to everyone, and Jenny’s involvement has been a major influence over the years, where many of the opportunities we’ve created have only been possible through the work of WCHP. To her, ‘creating opportunities’ means:
“Finding lots of different ways to bring out the best in people – to encourage everyone to believe in themselves, and to help make the world a better place”
A brighter future
Our 21st birthday doesn’t only mean we’re looking back on our impact over the years, it gives us the opportunity to look forward and establish plans for the future. Jenny remains supportive of HOT and is delighted with our agility and resilience over the years, something that has helped us to ensure the 1,700 people we reach each day are able to build a better life and brighter future. Jenny comments:
Learn more about our 21st Birthday celebrations
As well as the contributions our connections are kindly providing to tell our story, we have lots of other things planned. Learn more on our official webpage, via the button below.