A NEWLY-FORMED Stourbridge community organisation is looking to transform a derelict industrial site into a bustling heritage centre and community hub.

Riverside House has ambitious plans to revamp an historic 19th century former ironworks site next to the Lion Health Medical Centre, off Lowndes Road and backing onto Stourbridge Canal, and turn it into a waterside community attraction with cafe, parkland and a shop selling local crafts and produce.

Once home to the Foster and Rastrick foundry where the famous Stourbridge Lion steam engine was built, the forgotten site which is owned by Revelan Group Ltd comprises a grade II listed house and workshops, woodland and walled gardens plus dry dock and narrowboat basins where coal and pig iron used to be brought in.

Lloyd Stacey, founder and director of Riverside House, says the project has so far received support from developers, Dudley Council and around £80,000 from funders including UnLtd, Paul Hamlyn Foundation, the Geoff Hill Charitable Trust, West Midlands Police, School for Social Entrepreneurs and Dudley's Community Forums Fund.

Stourbridge-based Talbots Solicitors has also carried out about £3,000 worth of pro bono work on behalf of the project.

Restoration of the overgrown site and efforts to bring life back into the old buildings and dry dock could take several years but a small team has already been undertaking work to smarten up the canal towpath which the organisation has adopted from the Canal and River Trust.

Former teacher Mr Stacey from Wollaston said: "We have made a big difference to the towpath, clearing rubbish, removing graffiti, cutting back brash and dead wood."

The Riverside House organisation comprises eight trustees and has been set up as a community interest company to support adults with learning and other difficulties.

Mr Stacey said: "This is an innovative and ground-breaking organisation that brings together the restoration and conservation of important heritage with the development of practical skills activities for marginalised members of the community.

"I am excited to be involved in restoring such an important site - especially as by doing so we will be helping people to develop their self-esteem, communication skills, physical well-being and sense of social inclusion."

He said there has been "so much support" for the project which aims to help young unemployed adults and young people who will be given chance to gain practical skills in catering, hospitality, gardening and traditional crafts through their involvement with restoring the site.

Mr Stacey is now hoping to site three shipping containers on the land to provide kitchen and toilet facilities, a meeting space and bicycle shed and has just submitted a planning application to Dudley Council.

Meanwhile - work has begun to clear the neighbouring land, owned by Revelan, to turn it into public parkland as part of the original planning agreement for the Taylor Wimpey/Doulton Brook development.