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South Oxhey community centre, The Clitheroe Club, in funding row
The future of a South Oxhey community centre has been thrown into doubt before its new home has even opened.
A row about funding has seen Watford Rural Parish Council pull out of talks with Sanctury Housing over the management of The Clitheroe Club building in Clitheroe Gardens.
The original club was closed in April 2012 and demolished as part of a sheltered housing development scheme to build 45 one and two bedroom homes for over 55s.
The parish council said Sanctuary was granted planning permission for the scheme in return for a replacement club building.
Watford Rural say the plan was for them to subsidise the club’s running costs by paying for a part-time worker and manage the centre on a day-to-day basis in return for a management fee from Sanctuary.
But three-years worth of discussions broke down after it emerged Sanctuary was unwilling to pay the council a fee beyond its initial grants.
Councillor Don Wilkinson, chairman of the parish council, said, "The Clitheroe Club has played an important role in the lives of the over 55’s in the local community for many years and we want to see it continuing.
"We have spent more than three years in discussions with Sanctuary, trying to find a way that we could, between us, give it a secure financial future based in the new building.
"The parish council has a limit to the budget it can allocate to this project, and we looked to Sanctuary to commit to an annual contribution in the form of a management fee.
"Instead, Sanctuary wanted to make the Club’s survival dependent on applying for and receiving grants, year on year.
"In our opinion, this is unrealistic and impossible to achieve. It offers no security to either the parish council or the residents in this economic climate. "The council has made this decision very reluctantly, but we have to act in the interest of all our residents."
Colleen Eccles, director of neighbourhoods for Sanctuary, said an offer made to the parish council of £20,000 towards costs still stood.
She said: "We understand the value of the Clitheroe Club to its users and are still committed to fund it initially and to help the local community develop a sustainable plan for its future.
"We offered grants of £7,000 for furnishings and £13,000 to cover running costs, as well as help to underwrite losses and although this was declined by the parish council our offer still stands.
"We were not, however, able to commit to underwriting costs indefinitely without the parish council working with us to develop a sustainable business plan which includes options for other sources of income, for example, renting the facilities out to new user groups and applying for other grant funding.
"We still have the same strong commitment to working with the community to ensure the club’s success."
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