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Astle Court

Astle Court Community Room

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Recently, those of you who have used the Astle Court Community Room in the past will have received a letter from Peaks & Plains Housing Trust regarding "Sharing Arrangements".

The relevant paragraphs read:

"As you will be aware the Trust put in place new management arrangements for using the community room in autumn of last year. These new measures were necessary to ensure your safe use of the room. The arrangements require bookings to be made through the Trust and the completion of a risk assessment prior to use which the Trust will help you to complete

Since Autumn 2015 the Trust have explored the potential of entering into a Licence agreement with some local groups to encourage local management of this facility for the benefit of the wider community. This Licence would have included paying the ongoing running costs such as heating, lighting & water with the Trust offering to continue to pay Council Tax and forego a rental charge.

Unfortunately we have been unable to find a partner willing to enter agreement. As a result the Trust will put in place a hire charge of £10 per hour to cover the running cost of the community room from Monday 25th April 2016. "

What many people in our community may not realise is that, a result of these changes, CTARA (yes, the group who won the Queen's Award for Voluntary Service in 2015) would have to find an additional £8,000 to continue with its existing bookings for this year. CTARA does an immense amount of work for the Chelford community but would find it impossible to continue as before under these changed arrangements.

The first manifestation of this is that CTARA will not be able to produce the cakes for the Queen's 90th Birthday celebrations in June, since the organisation depends on using the Astle Court room kitchens for preparation and cooking.

P&PHT have explored contractual arrangements as they state. However, individuals and volunteer organisations have understandably found it too onerous to take on the personal liability burden and other long-term financial and management requirements. CTARA, Chelford Parish Council, our ward councillor and the former CEC Cabinet Member for Communities and Health have all made strong representations to P&PHT but the situation, following a temporary reprieve, remains the same.

This raises various questions:

After all the years as a community room, what has changed to drive the need for payment where there was none before?

Is it reasonable and community-spirited to expect volunteers (individuals and groups) to enter into open-ended contractual arrangements where none was required before?

and most importantly,
Where are the elderly, the lonely and vulnerable adults going to go now to benefit from the care, fun and companionship provided by CTARA?

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