TWO voluntary groups have vowed to fight a Warrington Borough Council eviction notice ordering them to vacate Fearnhead Cross Youth and Community Centre.
Blackbrook Community Association and Fearnhead Volunteer Community Group have occupied a rent free office at the building for more than 30 years but have now been served an eviction notice by the borough council due to ongoing health and safety issues which have not been resolved.
Allan Bradshaw Chair of Blackbrook Community Association said: “There are two separate issues going on in the centre. both along similar lines.
“There is a volunteer group, Fearnhead Volunteer Community Group, made up of local residents, Who employ Ms Sue Emery as a part-time community development worker.
“Their remit is to support voluntary groups with help and advice including funding. and to advise new groups etc.
“They also give help and advice to local people seeking help.
Allan added: “The Blackbrook Community Association consists of just volunteers. We are well skilled in providing low cost events for residents. Our aim it to keep the costs down for less well off families
“Our skills range from Free Fun days to Free Firework Displays and our famous Free Christmas Grotto, to low cost trips to the seaside. All these events and much more are being put at risk .
“WBC have given us until the 23rd of May to leave our office and remove all our equipment from the centre. BCA have had no meetings with WBC there has been no dialogue between us. There has been no reasons given for this decision.
Rose Corry, Chairperson of the Fearnhead Volunteer Community Group said they had also received a the letter stating they were in breach of Health and safety regulations.
She said: “All this unrest began when a refurbishment was completed. We were refused access to the building until we all signed a Code of Conduct.
“There has been a lot of tactics used which has made the situation unbearable at times. All that the volunteers want to do is help the people who are in need.
“It seems that the final straw for the council was when we introduced our latest initiative which we call Rosie’s Pantry. This involves us collecting end of day none sales from some of our local bakeries.
“We then give the produce away to people who are having financial difficulties.
“We have started a petition from the Centre and also a young resident of Fearnhead has started an on line one.
She added: “We have also lodged an appeal but are fearful of a negative outcome. My volunteers are heartbroken at this situation, many are retired and do their volunteering to help others.”
A Warrington Borough Council spokesperson said: “There have been ongoing difficulties at Fearnhead Cross Youth and Community Centre regarding conduct, health and safety for some time. We have worked closely with the Fearnhead Management Group to attempt to resolve these issues, including meeting to discuss concerns and to agree remedial actions. However, attempts to improve communication and relationships, while positive, have not been able to be resolved to the satisfaction of all parties. The Fearnhead Management Group is made up of representatives from user groups within the centre which includes Blackbrook Community Association.
“It is with regret that the decision has been made to end the arrangement for the Fearnhead Management Group and Blackbrook Community Association to use an office at the centre. Both groups have been sent a letter, making them fully aware of the situation, including the reasons that have led to this decision. The groups have been given until 23 May to vacate the building and were invited to attend a closure meeting to discuss any final issues
and to arrange for equipment to be moved. The council has also offered assistance in supporting both groups to source alternative premises.
“Careful consideration has been given to this decision, which has been reached in the best interest of the welfare of staff and all centre users. The operational management of the centre, health and safety, facilities hire and resourcing remains the responsibility of the council. We recognise and value the role of volunteers in all of our centres but feel that the difficulty in maintaining good relationships at the centre simply cannot continue, as this is not in the best interests of council staff, the community groups or service users.
“Both community organisations are able to continue to operate from alternative premises, and the council community centre facilities can still be hired for activities in the usual way. We’d like to reassure everyone who uses Fearnhead Cross Youth and Community Centre that all services and activities are welcome to continue to run as normal, and we are fully committed to the success of the centre.”