Calls to find ways of trying to save community centre

The Dovecote Centre in Amble.
The Dovecote Centre in Amble.

A desperate plea has been made to try to save an under-threat community building in Amble, while one councillor has claimed there is a lack of investment in the town.

Last week, the Gazette reported how the Dovecote Centre is set to shut its doors at the start of August, after Northumberland County Council decided not to renew the lease from the Diocese of Newcastle.

The authority runs its Learning and Skills Service (Adult Learning) from the facility, but says that it can offer the courses from various venues in the Amble area, instead of having to fund the cost of a full-time centre.

But a number of groups use the facility, including the Dovecote Toddler Group which is frantically looking for a new base. And at last Thursday’s Amble Town Council, members expressed their disappointment at the news.

Coun Kate Morrison described it as ‘short-sighted’ and Amble Mayor Jane Dargue said: “It is a hub and my concern is we don’t have another centre like this. There are groups that could use it. Could we not give it a chance and see if there is a way of saving it?”

Explaining the situation, Coun Robert Arckless said: “This has come from significant funding pressures and nationally, from August 1, the Government won’t fund a community-learning budget.

“Across the county, there are 13 centres, including Dovecote, and the only way to achieve budget reductions is to reduce that to eight.

“The consultation process with staff is not complete and discussions are needed with the Diocese. The Centre needs significant capital investment and it is no longer possible for the Adult Learning Service to bear the costs of running a substantial building.

“One of the issues is usage and there is not a lot of activity for a building of that size. I hope we can find a way of giving it a future. Work is ongoing to help the user groups who are there now.”

But Coun Jeff Watson said: “Amble is bereft of these types of community centres and the Dovecote is the nearest thing we have got. Other places are getting huge capital investment, such as Hadston with a £500,000 refurbishment of its community centre. What is it about Amble that we can’t get the funding to do things?”

Coun Arckless responded: “That’s not entirely fair, when you think about some of the county-council investment in Amble, such as the Harbour Village. Hadston also lost a very substantial school.”

Coun Watson replied: “The Harbour Village was a different type of funding – I’m talking about community.”