Funding snub rocks community centre

A GOVERNMENT department has refused to help with the cost of a new community centre, leaving residents in the Suffolk market town less than three weeks to raise £100,000.

A GOVERNMENT department has refused to help with the cost of a new community centre, leaving residents in the Suffolk market town less than three weeks to raise £100,000.

The facility in Framlingham, which has been in the pipeline for around six years, could be put in jeopardy because of the last minute setback, it was warned last night.

The Framlingham Community Centre Trust, with the backing of MP Sir Michael Lord, had appealed against the Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs' refusal.

But the bid has failed and Defra has stood by its decision not to give the expected award of £125,000.

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John Lockyer, trust secretary, said Defra's reason was that there were “better projects to back”.

The trust has now scaled back the scheme by identifying cost savings and work that might be deferred but there is still a funding gap approaching £100,000.

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Pledges from the community already exceed £25,000 but more are urgently needed if the £900,000-plus project is to go ahead- and the timescale is extremely tight.

Mr Lockyer explained that time is running short to take up other grants, including £290,000 from the lottery and £300,000 from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF).

He said: “We have got to spend the money. The lottery has already been very kind and granted us extensions but the European Regional Development Fund money has got to be spent in 2007, so we have got to fill a substantial money gap to go forward.

“We have got to see if we can raise the pledges for this money in the next two to three weeks otherwise we can't have the confidence to take it forward.

“We ought to be able to get these pledges; I hope we will. I hope the community will rise to the challenge.

“If not, it is going to set the town back many years as these sorts of grants are not available anymore.”

Architects are coming up to the final stages of having the tenders issued to builders and Mr Lockyer said there would be “a lot of money” lost if the plans were to fall through at this late stage.

He said the trustees were “given the impression” that Defra would give the money bid for under the Rural Enterprise Scheme, which would have paid for car parking and roadworks outside the centre, if the ERDF money was granted.

A spokesperson for Defra said: “We do not comment on rejected applications. The details of applications are treated as confidential.”

She said a full explanation would have been provided to the applicant as to why they did not receive funding.

The Rural Enterprise Scheme has since closed but the Defra spokesperson said a new initiative run through the East of England Development Agency would replace it.

It is envisaged the centre would be at the heart of the Framlingham community, providing facilities for social, welfare and business activities that could be used by local residents of all ages and attract visitors.

The trust's AGM is to be held tomorrow at 7.30pm in the St Michael's Rooms, when residents will be given an update on the plans.

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