Colchester: The future of Abbots Activity Centre to be decided tonight

Users and volunteers at Abbots Activity Centre, Colchester are angry about the planned closure of th

Users and volunteers at Abbots Activity Centre, Colchester are angry about the planned closure of the building

The future of an activity centre for the over-50s in Colchester is due to be decided tonight.

Members of Colchester Borough Council’s cabinet will meet to rule whether Abbots Activity Centre in Ladbrooke Drive should be closed following a recommendation from council officers.

The report says the centre, which has around 260 members, requires a subsidy of £74,000 per year from the council to operate, costing in the region of £290 per member – a sum that, it says, is not sustainable.

Supporters of the centre say the building is a vital resource for elderly and disabled people in the town, and provides an important location for community groups.

Volunteer Jane Wilding said: “Most of the people who use the centre are over 60 years old and many are physically disabled. The centre is used by groups who help people who have suffered strokes and Alzheimer’s.

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“We may only have a membership of 268 but footfall is around 600 to 700 people a week. For some people, a visit to Abbots is the only time they come out.

“If it closes there will not be anywhere else for them to go and they will stay at home alone.”

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But cabinet member for communities and leisure services, Annie Feltham, said this and the previous council have strived since 2006 to find a financially viable solution to keeping Abbots open without success.

She added:” The members of Abbots make up just 1% of the 58,000 people aged over 50 who live across the borough.

“We have a responsibility to ensure we use money for the benefit of everyone.

“Abbots is a great place and we’ve worked hard to try and keep it going but even when we took it to the market and offered private organisations a subsidy of £105,000 over three years, no-one was able to take it on.”

Ms Feltham said groups who use Abbots have been given the contact details of other similar community projects in the area to enable them to make alternative arrangements.

Tonight’s cabinet meeting features a public Have Your Say section and has been moved to the Moot Hall in Colchester Town Hall in anticipation of a large turn out.

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