Hoole Community Centre has been at risk of closure following difficulties in arranging a new lease.
A meeting convened by Chris Matheson MP on Thursday night (19th November 2020) was attended by representatives from Hoole Community Development Trust, All Saints Church and Cheshire West & Chester Council. During the meeting, Hoole Community Development Trust and All Saints Church agreed to work together on a new two-year transitional arrangement to enable the continuation of community services from the centre through to March 2023. During this time, a new longer-term deal will be established, which reflects the funding challenges associated with running community services and managing a Grade II listed building.
Chris said: “In recent weeks it has become common knowledge that as a result of complex legal agreements that date back to Chester City Council days and beyond, the operating model of Hoole Community Centre had become unsustainable. Unpicking these issues during a global pandemic has meant that the Trust, who run the building, and the Church, who are the landlords, had reached a financial deadlock. I was pleased to have been able to bring all of the parties together to find a way forward.”
Until recently, the Trust and Council held a lease on the building from the Church. Under the new arrangement, the Trust will lease the building from the Church directly and the Council will instead provide a grant to support the Trust during the transitional period between the current lease ending and a longer term solution being agreed.
Councillor Adam Langan represents the Newton and Hoole Ward, he said: “The Community Centre is the pride of Hoole, loved and used by many in the community and across the wider city. The council’s commitment to the continuation of the centre will include a one-off transitionary grant of £18,000 plus capital works that go beyond any statutory obligations. This includes repairs to the floor in the main hall, which will support the financial viability of the building in the future. Agreeing the basis for a new way forward is a real relief and means that this investment from the council will benefit people in the Hoole community and beyond for years to come.”
Recognising the risk to the future of Hoole Community Centre, a passionate campaign to save it was coordinated by Paula Norris, the centre’s manager.
Paula said: “All our Trustees and centre staff have ever wanted is a fair rent and a long lease to aid us in our applications for grant funding, and to help us plan for the future. The outcome of Thursday’s meeting is a significant step in the right direction and brings us closer to securing a long-term future for our services. Thank you to all of the residents who have supported us in recent weeks. This new arrangement gives us some breathing space so that we can start to plan up to 2023 – and hopefully beyond! I look forward to getting started on this with my team of staff and volunteers in the New Year.”
All Saints’ vicar, John Kirkland, expressed the church’s gratitude to Chris for chairing the meeting and to the Council for their generous support for the Community Centre. He said: “All Saints Church remains committed to seeing community services delivered through the Community Centre. We hope and pray that Thursday’s meeting will give us time to create the foundations of a new relationship with Hoole Community Development Trust, whereby we can reach a mutual agreement that enables All Saints and the Trust to go on serving the people of Hoole in the future.”
Chris concluded by saying: “These are complex issues, but what I saw on Thursday night was a passionate group of local people, willing to work together, to put faith in each other’s commitment to find a workable solution for the here and now, and then sit down again to look at how things might look in the future. In the darkest of times, it is nice to see a bit of hope shining brightly in Hoole.”