Streetwise Safety Centre

Streetwise is one of the few full-time, purpose built Children’s Safety Centres in the country and was Designed and Project Managed by Ellis Belk Associates.

Situated between the conurbations of Poole and Bournemouth, the Centre comprises a life-sized village built inside a warehouse, containing eleven realistic scenarios from everyday life representing the most common areas of danger. These include:

  • Road and shops
  • Park
  • House and garden
  • Dark alley
  • Electricity sub-station
  • Train and railway line
  • Farm
  • Heath land
  • A beach

Since it’s official opening in November 1998, many thousands of children have visited the Centre to learn about accident prevention both at home and on the roads, how to keep safe and what to do in an emergency and about responsible behaviour and good citizenship in an exciting and memorable way.

Streetwise has proved to be a great success and in 2008 Streetwise celebrated its 10th birthday with a visit from HRH The Princes Royal, however, it took an enormous amount of hard work to get the concept off the ground in the first place. It was clear right from the beginning that funding for the Centre would need to come primarily through the private sector. Sponsorship was seen as a key to development and it was at this point that the organisers turned to Ellis Belk for help. We already had a reputation locally as being at the forefront of 3D computer-aided design and modelling and don’t forget, this was back in the 1990s!

Ellis Belk produced a computer-generated virtual reality walkthrough which was transferred on to video tape to send to potential sponsors. We should stress that this was not just an artist’s impression; it was based on our 3D working drawings as approved by the planning authority and the building regulation department. The video and associated rendered images created a huge amount of publicity for the centre and a huge amount of publicity meant keen sponsors. The various marketing and publicity departments were able to take back to their board members rendered 3D images of exactly what they were being asked to sponsor.

During the design stage we discussed the proposals with numerous bodies and safety experts, including The Royal National Lifeboat Institution, The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents, The Health and Safety Executive, The Police, The Fire Brigade, British Rail Transport Police, and the National Farmers Union.

As well as cash donations, much of Streetwise was built around gifts in kind. Our design therefore had to remain flexible. For example we designed the shops in brickwork, but had to ‘make do’ with a large donation of stone instead. We were offered a helicopter; not exactly what we had in mind, but where there’s a will, there’s a way and its now a popular feature of the centre.

Streetwise is unique in the south of England and to our knowledge it is only the second one in Europe.

Ellis Belk’s involvement with Streetwise continues on a voluntary basis and we still retain an ‘office’ on the first floor above the shops. The Centre has been visited by numerous local and national dignatories and MPs, including the then Prime Minster’s wife Cherie Blair, who having relatively small children at the time took an enormous interest in the various scenarios and enthusiastically took part in a simulated house fire, escaping on hands and knees with the children.

For more information regarding Streetwise, visit their website at: www.streetwise.org.uk or contact the Centre Manager, Mrs Alison Shelton on 01202 591330.