Buildings are under threat

IMPROVEMENTS COMPLETED: Trimdon Station Community Centre. (IRN

IMPROVEMENTS COMPLETED: Trimdon Station Community Centre. (IRN

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THE future of dozens of community centres are being discussed as civic chiefs try to save £125m over the next four years.

Durham County Council’s cabinet is running a three-month consultation on the future of 120 authority-run community buildings across the county, including several venues in east Durham.

The council has put aside £2.15m for developing the buildings, which more than 700 volunteers give up their time to run.

But as part of the review, civic chiefs are looking at various options, including “taking immediate action to close or asset-transfer” a number of buildings which are within 2,400ft of other community buildings already due to receive investment.

The council’s head of partnerships and community engagement, Gordon Elliott, said: “As well as asking the public to help us decide where the £2.15m should be spent, we are looking at where other options, including asset transfer to management committees, can better service local people.”

Cabinet member for neighbourhoods and local partnerships, Councillor Brian Stephens, said: “We do not have the £11m required to bring all these building up to scratch so we need the public’s help to decide the best way forward.”

Community buildings have been ranked for investment based on a number of factors including needs, size of town, proximity to other community buildings and cost per use.

The 120 community buildings have been placed into five categories.

There are 36 buildings proposed to receive investment from the £2.15m on the condition that it has a business plan and future sustainability.

There are 41 venues unlikely to attract investment unless resources become available from the £2.15m, though the authority will help the community to access additional funds and take ownership through asset transfer.

There are 12 buildings within 2,400ft of other community buildings that are already proposed to receive investment, which would not receive investment from the £2.15m and there would be immediate action to close or asset-transfer, though help would be given to access additional funds, if required.

Closure would be confirmed on 15 buildings which are already closed and these are proposed to be declared surplus to requirements and passed for disposal.

Another option is no investment for 16 buildings which already have a full repairs and insurance lease, where responsibility lies with a management committee.

Other options include leave things as they are, withdraw from investment in community buildings and invest in other council priorities or fully invest in all properties regardless of levels or use, though the council says this would require £11.25m over the next 10 years.

Further options are to fulfil minimum contractual requirements irrespective of levels of use or value for money, target investment on “priority community buildings”, or partially invest in all properties irrespective of levels of use or value for money.

The feedback from the consultation will inform a further report to cabinet, with no decisions taken until February 2012.

To take part in the consultation, visit the council website at www.durham.gov.uk, click on ‘Have Your Say on Consultation’ and look for the Community Buildings Consultation on ‘Current Consultations’, email comments to cbconsultation@durham.gov.uk or call (0191) 3834215.