County Durham community centres fate hangs in balance

THE long-term futures of dozens of community centres in County Durham remain up in the air after council bosses confirmed the facilities it can afford to support.

Young musicians rehearse at the Activity Den in Tanfield Lea, County Durham
Young musicians rehearse at the Activity Den in Tanfield Lea, County Durham

THE long-term futures of dozens of community centres in County Durham remain up in the air after council bosses confirmed the facilities it can afford to support.

Councillors are being be asked to approve plans that will see 36 of the county’s 120 buildings share £2.15m of investment.

Papers prepared for the authority’s cabinet detail the plan to ensure the county has a network of “sustainable, well placed, highly valued and well used community buildings which are controlled by local people”.

And in a boost for users of the 54 facilities facing an uncertain future, the council will make available £600,000 to support community groups interested in taking over the buildings.

Coun Brian Stephens, the council’s cabinet member for neighbourhoods and local partnerships, said: “We hope that as many groups as possible make the most of what will be a two-year window to secure funding for their local facilities.”

Following a three-month consultation in which more than 3,600 residents contacted the council, changes have been made to the centres which are earmarked for investment.

Bearpark Community Centre, near Durham City, along with the buildings in Framwellgate and Hunwick have moved into the secure category while centres at Howden-le-Wear, Chester Moor and Thornley have been downgraded.

Those three join 51 other centres that won’t receive investment unless further funding becomes available, 14 are confirmed for closure. The council remains hopeful local groups will come forward and present viable plans that can keep as many of them open as possible via a system of asset transfers.

A list of 16 centres in the county, including the Activity Den in Tanfield Lea, Stanley, are already run on an asset transfer basis.

Colin Hillary, chair of the management committee at Framwellgate Community Centre, said people had worked very hard to present the building’s case. “Our usage has almost doubled in the last 18 months since the first review was carried out,” he said. “So on a value for money index that the council have been using that moves us up as we’ve managed to get more people using the centre.

“There’s still a lot of work to do but we’re extremely happy.”

The council’s cabinet will be asked to approve the report next Wednesday.

 
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