Arson-hit Mepal Outdoor Centre, empty for seven months, is looking for new tenants

PUBLISHED: 17:35 07 August 2017 | UPDATED: 17:36 07 August 2017

The Mepal Outdoor Centre was broken into over Christmas. Garden tools and change was taken from a vending machine, which was later set on fire. PHOTO: Seb Pearce`

The Mepal Outdoor Centre was broken into over Christmas. Garden tools and change was taken from a vending machine, which was later set on fire. PHOTO: Seb Pearce`

Archant

An outdoor activity centre that closed following an arson attack is looking for a new tenant to take it over.

Trustees of the Mepal Outdoor Centre, who have been running the charitable enterprise for the past four years, have handed the lease back to landlords East Cambridgeshire District Council. PHOTO: Seb Pearce Trustees of the Mepal Outdoor Centre, who have been running the charitable enterprise for the past four years, have handed the lease back to landlords East Cambridgeshire District Council. PHOTO: Seb Pearce

There is seven weeks left to put in an offer of interest for the 30 acre Mepal Outdoor Centre site that closed in December last year following a blaze.

The Mepal Outdoor Centre trustees board says a fire in December has forced them to take The Mepal Outdoor Centre trustees board says a fire in December has forced them to take "too many steps backwards." PHOTO: Seb Pearce

A spokesman for East Cambs District Council said the centre, that boasts a lake, climbing wall and giant ropes frame, has facilities that: “are very tired, but it is believed that a viable business can be developed with appropriate investment and a robust business model.

The Mepal Outdoor Centre, which has closed after a fire in December caused hundreds of thousands of pounds worth of damage. PHOTO: Seb Pearce The Mepal Outdoor Centre, which has closed after a fire in December caused hundreds of thousands of pounds worth of damage. PHOTO: Seb Pearce

“It has operated under a trust structure since the 1980s, catering for community users and school groups.

“The site has reverted to the council as freeholder.”

Councillor Lorna Dupre, who sits on a working party to look at the applications, said: “I hope we will get some really interesting bids and thoughts.

“It’s important we find a sustainable plan that will last the distance and is of benefit to the community.

“There’s already been a fair bit of interest. Once bids are in we will look at them all, we hope to make a decision by the end of the year.”

The site has a water-sports lake and boathouse, a student accommodation block with 38 beds and a staff flat.

There is an activity hall, indoor climbing wall and high ropes installation as well as camping area with small amenity-block.

Kirsten Bennett, secretary of the former trustees board, said earlier this year that the decision to hand back the keys after the fire was “absolutely heartbreaking” for everybody who worked so hard to turn the centre around.

It was in danger of closing nearly five years ago but the trustees board was set up from community volunteers with administrative help from Cambridgeshire Acre to keep it going.

Ms Bennett said: “We all worked so hard to turn it from a loss making venture, into the slightly profit making business. We were making such excellent progress, but the fire has forced us to take too many steps backward.”

The Mepal Outdoor Centre was broken into over Christmas 2016. Garden tools and change was taken from a vending machine, which was later set on fire and caused serious structural damage to the building as well as smoke damage.

• Formal expressions of interest should be submitted by noon on Monday September 25. For information email leisure.moc@eastcambs.gov.uk.

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