Centre's future finally secured by community

A group has taken control of a community centre almost two years after it was threatened with closure by the council.

Thursday, 6th April 2017, 11:34 am
Updated Saturday, 8th April 2017, 10:30 pm

Birstall Community Holdings Ltd has signed a six-month lease to take control of the Birstall Community Centre, with preparations being made for a transfer of the whole building later on in the year.

The Market Street facility, which is on the ground floor of the library, was earmarked to be cut from the Kirklees Council budget in November 2015 as it looked to slash costs.

But it was given a lifeline when it was offered to the community, opening the opportunity for a group to take responsibility and apply for an asset transfer.

Birstall and Birkenshaw ward councillor, Andrew Palfreeman, was on hand to sign the lease on behalf of the group recently, which came after more than a year of negotiations with Kirklees Council.

Coun Palfreeman said: “We have consulted all the current users a number of times and assured them that their bookings and levels of rent are guaranteed for at least the next six months.

“In the longer term, if the centre is to succeed, it has to be marketed, administered and maintained much better than it has in the past.

“Hire charges will be competitive with similar local facilities but Birstall community groups and organisations will get priority and discounted rates.”

The centre was built at the start of the 1960s and, at the time, included slipper baths for the benefit of local residents who lacked facilities in their homes.

Wanting to secure the future of the centre, the ward councillors opened discussions with the council and asked Ian Blamires, a Birstall solicitor, to assist.

In order to ensure that the centre is owned by the wider community of Birstall, a company - limited by guarantee and with no shareholders - was set up.