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Colchester: Activity centre faces closure

PUBLISHED: 06:00 20 July 2011

Colchester Borough Council

Colchester Borough Council

FEARS over the closure of a popular activity centre have been raised by its users.

The Abbots Activity Centre in Ladbrook Drive, Colchester provides entertainment and activities for the over 50s and has over 300 members.

However, under new proposals, Colchester Borough Council could be forced to close the centre due to budget constraints.

In a letter that went out to staff and members at the weekend, the Council said it would be reviewing its activity centres ‘in order to let more residents access the services on offer, whilst saving money.’

The Council said it has been assessing its two centres, Lion Walk in the town centre and Abbots located a few miles outside.

Volunteers and users from the Abbots centre expressed their dismay at the news, claiming the closure would leave many of the members house bound for the rest of their lives.

The centre, which opened in 1989, runs activities including arts and crafts, computer lessons and stroke sufferers classes throughout the week and serves subsidised meals at lunch time.

The initial plans state that the Lion Walk site will receive more funding so it can serve more customers while an over 50s club would be developed at Leisure World Colchester.

But Silvia Wenlock who lives close by and has to use a mobility scooter said: “I won’t be able to get to Eld Lane or the leisure centre with my disability so I would be house bound. There’s nowhere else nearby for me to go for any entertainment.”

Iris Thompson, who helps at the centre said: “When we received the letter we felt absolutely deflated. Where will we go? We work as hard as we can to build people up and keep activities going and then this happens.”

Users said they found the site easily accessible, with plenty of parking and used buses that ran directly to the centre.

But the Council claims one of the key reasons for closing the centre is because of it’s location.

Tina Dopson, portfolio holder for Communities and Diversity said: “One of the problems we want to address is that many residents who don’t live in the centre of Colchester find it hard to get to either centre. Although Lion Walk is well served by public transport, Abbots Activity Centre is really only conveniently located for people who live nearby. We want to re-invest in new voluntary clubs so more residents of the borough, living further afield, can benefit from these valuable services.”

Volunteer Margaret Oakley rebuffed the claims saying the centre was popular everyday of the week with people from in and outside of Colchester: “People come here from all over - Tiptree, Mersea, Wivenhoe, so the Council saying it’s hard to get to isn’t true. Look how many people come here. Users come from miles away because they enjoy it and it’s easy to access.”

Over the summer customers and staff of the centres will be consulted about the impact the changes would have.

Posters have already gone up at the Abbots centre urging members to save the site by writing to the Council and Colchester MP Bob Russell.

A decision will be made about what changes will be implemented in the autumn.

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