Rent row threatens to scupper plans for new children's centre in Saffron Walden

PUBLISHED: 09:20 21 September 2009 | UPDATED: 21:54 31 May 2010

A RENT wrangle is proving a stumbling block to providing a dedicated centre for young families in Saffron Walden and the surrounding villages. Essex County Council (ECC) wants to use the Golden Acre Community Centre on Ross Close as the location for a new

A RENT wrangle is proving a stumbling block to providing a dedicated centre for young families in Saffron Walden and the surrounding villages.

Essex County Council (ECC) wants to use the Golden Acre Community Centre on Ross Close as the location for a new Children's Centre.

However, a rental agreement has not been reached with the owners of the site, Saffron Walden Town Council (SWTC). A plan to sell the centre to ECC has also been rejected.

At a full council meeting last Wednesday, Cllr Jim Ketteridge tabled a motion to keep the centre under the council's control. He said: "Saffron Walden Town Council has been very supportive of the principle of the provision of a Children's Centre in Saffron Walden and has been happy to discuss with ECC the use of the Golden Acre Community Centre for this purpose.

"However, as at present no acceptable financial arrangements with the county council have been found that would facilitate an agreement, this council is unable to progress these discussions further.

"Should new proposals come forward they will, of course, be considered but these should not involve the sale of the freehold of the Golden Acre Community Centre or any part thereof."

The Golden Acre Community Centre is currently used by the youth club, the Goldie Youth Group, on Thursday evenings. The group is run by Cllr Mike Hibbs, who declared a personal interest during the council's discussions.

"I don't believe that joint use has ever been very successful," said Cllr Hibbs. "I'm worried that if we pass responsibility of the centre to anyone else then we would have no guarantee in the future of the services which are currently provided there.

"I don't believe that we can put in place any safeguards that we could keep the centre for the use of the community."

A Saffron Walden Children's Centre would be expected to handle around 1500 children when a site has been found. The target for Essex is to have a centre or outreach service - which is funded be the Government - within walking distance of every family in Uttlesford.

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