A LONG-RUNNING community project aiming to combat male loneliness and improve social skills is set to finally open its doors.

The Halstead Community Shed Trust’s Kevin Pryke says it will start welcoming residents at the former St John Ambulance Station, in Fenn Road, from March 1.

He told a Halstead Town Council meeting that phase one of renovation work has been completed ahead of schedule.

Phase one was the construction of the training rooms, a space which will be used by a range of groups with an interest in health and wellbeing.

The Halstead Community Shed Trust was formed in 2022 and its ambition is to set up a facility in the town.

Halstead Gazette: Renovated - An interior photo of the ambulance station showing how renovating work is ahead of scheduleRenovated - An interior photo of the ambulance station showing how renovating work is ahead of schedule (Image: Halstead Community Shed)

The former-ambulance station is to be used as a men's shed, a place to pursue practical interests, skills and make things, with a focus on it being a social and welcoming environment.

Mr Pryke said: “We’re tackling the isolation suffered by older men.

“In our area, we have an above average rate of suicide in older men.”

The trustees signed a deal with St John Ambulance in September 2023 for the building, before completing the purchase prior to Christmas.

The objective is to turn it into a “focal point” in the town for health and wellbeing.

Halstead Gazette: Leader - Halstead Community Shed's Kevin PrykeLeader - Halstead Community Shed's Kevin Pryke (Image: Public)

Phase two of the work, the construction of the men's shed project, will take place by the end of March.

Mr Pryke said there will be separate sessions for women to use the community shed.

Halstead Gazette: Interior - Another image showing off some of the renovation workInterior - Another image showing off some of the renovation work (Image: Halstead Community Shed)

Councillor James Bond praised the shed project.

He said: "It’s revolutionary. The more support we can offer it as the town council, then that is what we should be doing.

“I commend what they are doing there.”

The former ambulance station will host the Essex Shed Forum on March 21.

Speaking to the Halstead Gazette following the council meeting, Mr Pryke said: "It's excellent news, we are well ahead of schedule in every single way.

"All the trustees have worked hard to get the training rooms ready, so the first initial groups can enjoy them in the first week of March.

"For 18 months we've said to Essex Shed Network 'hold on, we're coming', and it is fantastic to be in this position finally.

"A big thank you to the NHS property division who volunteered a day to help us. We had eight tradesman come down - electricians, builders - all working on the building."