Community centre is put up for sale

PUBLISHED: 14:28 03 May 2007 | UPDATED: 12:25 04 May 2010

Committee chairman Derek Timber says there has to be a balance.
Photo: HELEN DRAKE

Committee chairman Derek Timber says there has to be a balance. Photo: HELEN DRAKE

COUNTY officials are posed to put up a for-sale board outside Black Horse Drove Community Centre because they don t need it any more. But the move to sell off the former chapel has been labelled a disaster and the council has been accused of asset strip

COUNTY officials are posed to put up a for-sale board outside Black Horse Drove Community Centre because they don't need it any more.

But the move to sell off the former chapel has been labelled a "disaster" and the council has been accused of asset stripping in Littleport.

"It seems to me the county council is hell-bent on selling any asset they can or pulling down local facilities in Littleport for monetary gain, and it seems the youth in the community are always a soft target," said centre committee secretary, Jean Howard.

"Our community centre has been looked after by a small group of residents who, over the years, have raised money for the upkeep and running of the hall."

Cambridgeshire County Council has given the village first refusal before the centre goes on the open market.

But there are fears that there is just not enough money in the coffers to save it.

"We have 10 days to take up the offer," said Jean.

"As we have approximately £900 in our community bank account this doesn't look likely."

Committee chairman, Derek Timber, said: "There has to be a balance between getting value for money and balancing the books and serving the community. I would like to see the centre stay open but it needs an awful lot of money spent."

Littleport district and parish councillor Fred Brown has joined the fight and wants the county council to give the village ownership of the centre.

He said: "It would be a disaster if it were to be taken away. It's an idea venue for mother and toddler groups and others to meet. There is nowhere else in Black Horse Drove. It is a very remote settlement.

"I would like to see the parish take over ownership of the centre for a very nominal fee. If it is owned then it can be appreciated and looked after."

He added that the district council had to make efficiency savings in the budget and there would be no cash in the present financial year to buy the centre at market price.

European funding might be available but that would take months to organise, he said.

The centre had been used in the past by the community learning group but courses have not been run there for around 10 years.

A Cambridgeshire County Council spokesman said that the centre cannot be handed over to the village for a nominal fee because the authority has a duty to get the best value for any asset declared surplus to requirements.

"In terms of timing of the sale we are in no rush," he said.

"We are prepared to give first refusal to the community group, district council and parish council.

"We are sympathetic to local views and wishes and we look forward to any options that might be suggested.

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