HER Royal Highness the Duchess of Gloucester formally opened the £3million Saxongate Centre in Huntingdon last Wednesday - and heard from one of the residents how the project had changed her life. The Duchess, a patron of the Papworth Trust, launched the

HRH The Duchess of Gloucester with Hugh Duberly, chairman of the Papworth Trust

HER Royal Highness the Duchess of Gloucester formally opened the £3million Saxongate Centre in Huntingdon last Wednesday - and heard from one of the residents how the project had changed her life.

The Duchess, a patron of the Papworth Trust, launched the £2million fundraising appeal two years ago.

Opening the centre she heard from Auriol Grey, 32, who has moved in after six years living in a residential care home at The Papworth Trust.

Ms Grey said: "I want to tell you about the difference this project has made to my life. At the care home, everything was done for me, I had very little choice over anything, even what I ate and when I ate it. Now I am learning to cook.

"Before I moved in, I chose the colours for my walls and floor for my new home and I chose my own furniture for the first time in my life. I have the freedom to chose what I do and when I do it. It is much easier to go out and meet friends when you live in the centre of town and I have bought a shopping trolley."

Ms Grey added that she had found new friends at Huntingdonshire Society for the Blind and worked as a volunteer in Huntingdon Library.

She said: "I waited a long time to move here, but it was worth the wait."

Opening the building, the Duchess said: "I would like to congratulate everyone who had the foresight to support this very well worthwhile project. It is a pleasure to see the building and meet the people who have settled in to live and work here."

The centre, helped by an appeal in The Hunts Post, sets a benchmark. The teaching rooms and meeting rooms have adaptable height sinks, cookers, surfaces, desks and whiteboards. All the doors open at the touch of a button and the cookers have their controls at the front. The corridors are wide and all the space is wheelchair accessible.

The centre uses colour and Braille signage to help with navigation through the building. The centre's staff are able to help and advise on other equipment or support which people need to access the centre.

The project forms part of a larger £7m re-development of key sites in central Huntingdon, which also includes flats. Bradbury Place, next to the Saxongate Centre, includes 30 flats, including those designed for people with disabilities.

The housing has been developed in partnership with Hill Residential.

Andy Hill, managing director of Hill Residential, said: "By designing-in access features into Bradbury Place from the start, not only is it accessible for disabled people, but it has also proved very popular with people who appreciate the additional circulation space, a lift and level access throughout. It has added value to the properties."

INFORMATION: For information about Saxongate or to hire a room, contact Amelia Hodson

on 01480 423053 or visit:www.saxongate.org.uk