Deadline looks for anyone interested in taking over Mepal Outdoor Sports Centre near Ely

The Mepal Outdoor Centre is looking for a buyer- deadline to put in application is December 4.

The Mepal Outdoor Centre is looking for a buyer- deadline to put in application is December 4. - Credit: Archant

A second deadline looms for anyone interested in taking over the arson hit Mepal Outdoor Sports Centre.

East Cambridgeshire District Council has set a deadline of December 4 after a previous deadline of September 25 for the 30 acre site came and went.

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

It is currently closed following a break-in and fire in December 2016, and the site has reverted to the council as freeholder.

A council spokesman said: “The facilities are very tired, but it is believed that a viable business can be developed with appropriate investment and a robust business model.”

In recent years various attempts have been made to make the centre viable including at one stage Cambridgeshire Acre taking it over.

Included in the offer are

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•Water-sports lake & boathouse

•Student accommodation block (approx 38 beds) plus staff flat

•Range of land-areas

•Activity-hall, indoor climbing wall and high ropes installation

•Camping area with small amenity-block

•Extensive parking

The council is looking for a “suitable operational or development partner” who will be given either a lease or allowed to acquire the freehold.

Individuals, companies or organisations interested in taking on the site of Mepal Outdoor Centre should contact the council.

The spokesman conceded that the Mepal business “has sometimes been fragile”.

However they believe a viable business could be developed on the site, with appropriate investment and a robust business model.

Originally formed from gravel workings, the site has been used for outdoor pursuits informally since the 1960s, and more formally since the 1980s.

At one time Brian Chadwick from March was chairman but stood down five years ago following a publicly announced crisis at Mepal. Mr Chadwick had been involved with the centre for nearly 30 years.

On paper the centre – set up by local people half a century or so ago- at one stage looked profitable with admissions, courses, revenue grants, memberships and training netting the centre £316,000 as recently as six years ago.

However the 23 staff employed at the time swallowed £231,027 of this income and other costs – including courses, premises and depreciation – added a further £168,659 to the overheads.

With the core need to provide low cost, value for money leisure for young people – who’s families like many have been hard hit by the recession- that has had an affect on the centre’s income.

At one stage East and South Cambs Councils as well as Fenland Council chipped in to help with the running costs but later withdrew support.