IT'S set to be full steam ahead in 2024 for an ambitious project that is breathing new life into a former Stourbridge industrial site.

The Riverside House project by Stourbridge Canal and the River Stour has been slowly but surely advancing since it all began in 2017.

Now the project, which is transforming a former 19th century ironworks site into a place that inspires wellbeing and improves biodiversity, has reached a major milestone thanks to a successful funding bid.

A £346,135 grant from the National Lottery Community Fund is set to help with the next phase of development at Riverside House which offers people with mental health problems and learning disabilities chance to get outdoors and gain practical skills and a sense of purpose.

Stourbridge News: Volunteer Dave Harris, service user Kallum Garbett and founder Lloyd StaceyVolunteer Dave Harris, service user Kallum Garbett and founder Lloyd Stacey (Image: Bev Holder / Newsquest)

Lloyd Stacey, managing director and founder of the project, said of the lottery funding: “This is a significant milestone in the development of the organisation and is a recognition of the achievements of a large team of people over the last seven years.

“The funding will run for five years and will support and pay for four new staff members to help develop the next exciting and ambitious phase of the project.

“We consider it a privilege and a responsibility to be awarded this and we thank the National Lottery for this opportunity.”

He thanked those who helped with the funding application and those who have “selflessly helped transform Riverside House into the amazing place it now is”.

The forgotten waterside site is becoming a much-valued resource for the community.

Formerly completely overgrown after lying derelict for years, it now boasts a market garden, off-grid café and craft shop created from shipping containers, a wetland ecosystem treatment area to purify greywater, a beehive, a waterless compost toilet and oak framed structures for activities and workshops.

Going forwards the plan is to add a new decorative steel fence around the site and create a heritage centre, a caretaker’s cottage and an amphitheatre for outdoor theatre, dance and musical performances.

Further ahead, Lloyd hopes to restore the derelict grade II listed ironmaster's house onsite.

Stourbridge News: The derelict grade II listed former ironmaster's houseThe derelict grade II listed former ironmaster's house (Image: Bev Holder / Newsquest)

Riverside House has already opened to the public on a number of occasions including during the International Festival of Glass in 2022 and Stourbridge Navigation Trust’s open weekend.

But the vision for the future is to host further artistic events, workshops, classes and demonstrations and be able to hire out rooms and spaces to freelance practitioners so the site becomes a community hub.

It could take another decade for the potential of site - dubbed "the Black Country's Lost Gardens of Heligan" - to be realised, but Lloyd is in it for the long haul.

He acknowledged when he took on the overgrown site in 2017 that it could become his life’s work.

But he says he’s “relieved” the project has got this far and he’s grateful for the support of the community and his “dedicated” volunteers who have “brought such warmth to the place”.

He added: “We’ve made so much fabulous progress this year.”

Volunteer Dave Harris said: “It’s an absolutely fantastic project; it’s truly changed me.”

Steve Wise and Ben Tromans are among the service users with learning disabilities helping to transform the site and both told what an “amazing project” it has proven to be.

To find out more about Riverside House visit the Facebook page or website