Haverhill youth centre: Row over community centre handover

A town council has said it is to seek a judicial review of a decision to hand over a youth and community centre to a hospice.

Haverhill Town Council was going to take over The Burton Centre in Camps Road from Suffolk County Council.

Its use had been severely restricted by cuts over the past two years.

St Nicholas Hospice Care is to take over the centre from the county council which said it would deal with any challenge through appropriate channels.

Haverhill Town Council said it had been in discussion about taking over the centre after calls for action to address youth unemployment and a lack of facilities for younger people.

'High price'

Town councillors of all parties have now resolved to take legal advice with the intention of seeking a judicial review of the decision.

A spokeswoman for Suffolk County Council said: "The county council has not received any correspondence from the town council regarding a legal challenge.

"However, if we receive correspondence to this effect in the future we will deal with it through the appropriate channels."

Town mayor Pat Hanlon said: "A sudden and unexplained change of approach resulted in an invitation to alternative bidders in September.

"St Nicholas Hospice Care was subsequently announced as the successful bidder, with a plan to redevelop the centre as a hub for hospice outreach services.

"The county council argued the town council is less financially sustainable than the charity.

"What we end up with is a community centre being closed and local people being asked to pay a high price to convert another building into a replacement."

Kevin Clements, fundraising and marketing director for St Nicholas Hospice Care, said: "The hospice's focus is on the Haverhill community and how we can best serve their needs.

"We are keen to work with the town council and have not ruled out the possibility of them using the Burton Centre in the future.

"We are also very keen to work with the existing community groups that use the centre and have already started having discussions with them and plan more in the coming months."

Plans for the Hospice community hub include a shop unit and café as well as services for patients, families and carers including support groups, complementary therapies, bereavement counselling and legal surgeries.

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