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People power to win day at town centre?
1:10pm Monday 4th March 2013 in News
PEOPLE power seems to have won the day with a much-valued outdoor centre now poised to stay in the hands of the community.
A community-led bid to take over Malvern Hills Outdoor Education Centre is now firmly in pole position after private provider Acorn Ventures – originally Worcestershire County Council’s preferred bidder – pulled out of the race to take control.
Council cabinet members are now being recommended to approve the takeover by the Malvern community interest company (CIC) – made up current staff and supporters and backed by local councillors – when it meets on Thursday.
The community takeover will be on a 60-year lease at a “nominal” rent and the CIC will be responsible for maintaining and investing in the centre’s equipment and buildings, some of which will need significant investment.
The community bid only emerged at a very late stage due to concerns that the educational offering at the West Malvern centre would suffer from a transfer into private hands.
County councillor Beverley Nielsen said she was delighted at having moved from “rank outsider” to being the recommendedbid.
“It is a credit to the staff at the Malvern Hills Outdoor Education Centre, to their manager and of course to the support that has come forward from the community, in particular from our key partner, local charity the Bransford Trust,” she said.
She added there was still “quite some way to go”, with the bid having to be thoroughly checked if it is approved, but added: “It is a big turnaround from the start position in November when I took the cabinet recommendation to move forward to a deal with the commercial bidder to our scrutiny board.
“In this short time frame we have been able to pull together a bid, a business plan, a board of people prepared to take this on and help ensure we maintain our current high standards atthe centre for the benefit of young people in Worcestershire.”
Recommending the bid, cabinet member for education and skills Jane Potter said officers “now have sufficient confidence” the community business plan meets the council’s original criteria for a takeover, adding that they had produced a “credible marketing plan”.
Part of the community takeover will see preferential treatment and rates guaranteed for the young people of Worcestershire and ensure that the centre’s assets are kept “for the primary purpose of outdoor activities and learning”.