A pioneering centre in its second year of opening is fast becoming a busy meeting hub for clubs and other groups.

The Zinc Arts Centre in Ongar High Street opened in November 2011 after a complete refurbishment that saw it transformed from the Great Stony School to workshops, art galleries, a theatre and overnight rooms that is fully accessible to people with disabilities.

Heather Stradling, who has been director since July, said: “It’s been great so far and one thing that’s been really exciting is the number of community groups we have using the building.

“We run our own activities as well, but we have groups organising stuff from all over the country.

“It’s open to anyone, so it’s not exclusively for disabled people. Just being in the building increases the awareness of disability for non-disabled people.”

As well as being used as a conference centre by local authorities and national bodies and local groups from Ongar Flower Club to Zumba classes, schools and respite providers have used the centre’s 25 residential rooms.

Ms Stradling said: “We’ve had people staying here who are running GCSE revision camps, groups of young people taking part in activity camps and adults on conferences.

“We have rooms with accessible en suites, some with hoists that can be used by the guest or carer and interconnecting rooms.

“We haven’t found anywhere else that’s like this across the country.

“People are so pleased that finally there’s somewhere they can send their groups.

“Some young people who are disabled have come from London for respite breaks and they were being sent to care homes for the elderly before.”

The centre hires out its facilities, including office desks and a conference centre, to fund the activities it provides.

For more information, visit www.zincarts.org.uk, email info@zincarts.org.uk or call 01277 365626.