Residents join forces in bid to save Brinkburn Community Centre

Brinkburn CA closure fears
front from left trustees Colin Bourdiec, Coun Jim Foreman and Penney Wilkinson. Back business developer Simon Ripley and COAST Pat Hay
Brinkburn CA closure fears front from left trustees Colin Bourdiec, Coun Jim Foreman and Penney Wilkinson. Back business developer Simon Ripley and COAST Pat Hay
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Campaigners are in a race against time to convince councillors of the benefits of protecting a South Tyneside community centre if they are to have any chance of saving it.

Brinkburn CIO - a charitable incorporated organisation - is one of a number of centres under threat of closure after council chiefs announced they would be pulling funding from April 1.

Brinkburn CA closure fears

Brinkburn CA closure fears

Committee members were given the option of putting together a business plan on how they would subsidise the building.

They claim they were told a decision would be made in January on whether the lease would be handed over but are still waiting.

Without it, the CIO is unable to apply for alternative funding and members fear it could signal the death knell for the centre in 18-months - leaving hundreds of groups homeless.

The centre, in Harton Lane, is one of three which were put into a special “options appraisal” category - the others were Chuter Ede CIO and Perth Green.

A lot of the groups which use the centre would struggle to find alternative accommodation.

Penney Wilkinson

On Monday, hundreds of people of all ages turned out to a public meeting.

Coun Jim Foreman said: “We are not in a fight. What we need is to show the councillors who will be making the decisions.

“We need to be given the opportunity to prove that Brinkburn can survive and be better than it is now.

“We need a 40-year lease minimum if we as a CIO are to put in for the cash which would help us to not only retain the services but to expand the building for the residents and users. Brinkburn can’t survive without a lease.”

Residents gather over closure fears

Residents gather over closure fears

He added: “If Brinkburn goes, there’s no getting it back.”

The centre currently has 1,670 members and a recent survey revealed that, on average, the building is used by between 4,000 and 6,000 people a week.

Penney Wilkinson, from the Volunteer Life Brigade, which trains at the centre said: “A lot of the groups which use the centre would struggle to find alternative accommodation.

“My lifeguard class would definitely struggle and there are many groups like us. The facilities we have here, are just not available elsewhere.”

It is understood a decision as to whether a lease will be granted to the CIO will be made by councillors at the next meeting of the council’s cabinet.

A spokesman for the Council said: “We are still in the final stages of evaluating the bids for all the Community Associations.

“We recognise some of the issues raised and are working closely with the management committee at Brinkburn CA to agree an interim arrangement before deciding on the long term management of the site.

“Brinkburn Community Association occupies just part of the wider Brinkburn site and it is important not to confuse the two issues.”