A petition to save the much-loved Sandhills Community House looks to have failed, but the doomed facility may get a four-month stay of execution.
The house was due to close with the expiry of its five-year lease in April 2016, when it will be handed back to owners Arnold White Estates.
But a campaign group, led by resident Joyce Lawrence, launched a battle to keep the house going.
On Tuesday, Mrs Lawrence presented a 562-signature petition to Central Beds Council’s Executive calling for a five-year extension of the lease, along with running costs including the retention of Voluntary Community Action staff.
Mrs Lawrence told the meeting: “On Sandhills we have a strong community spirit. We know we don’t have to sit home alone, we can go to the community house, have a cup of tea and a chat and there is a lovely atmosphere.”
She said many friendships have been forged by people gathering at the house. “It is important to remember the house is not just a venue for activities but a local drop-in centre which goes a long way to preventing social isolation.”
Mrs Lawrence added that there were now 1,600 homes on Sandills, with more being built. “Through broken promises we have no infrastructure on Sandhills apart from the school,” she said.
“The community house is important to residents as a safety net if help is needed. We would be devastated to lose it and feel let down by Central Beds Council in regards to the needs of Sandhills as no S106 money has been allocated for community facilities.”
In response to the petition, Cllr Andrew Turner, Executive Member for Stronger Communities, said the house had always been intended to close at the end of its five-year lease – on April 19, 2016.
However, he said the council wished the closure to be aligned with the opening of the Greenfields Independent Living facility. This was now expected to be complete in June 2016 and Cllr Turner revealed the council was in talks to extend the community house lease by four months to August 2016.
He said: “We recognised the contribution the community house has made on Sandhills. We will work with Voluntary Community Action to ensure a lasting legacy from this project, which includes supporting the arrangements they are already putting in place to transfer as many activities as possible to other local venues.
“With the availability of Astral Park, Pages Park pavilion, Greenleas School, the narrow gauge railway new station and the Greenfields complex, we are confident that all of the organised activities currently provided through the community house can be successfully relocated elsewhere in the vicinity.”
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