Cash withdrawn after too many plan delays

PUBLISHED: 14:43 25 April 2007 | UPDATED: 22:44 28 May 2010

The decrepit buildings

The decrepit buildings

EXCLUSIVE By John Elworthy OVER £1.08 million earmarked for March to provide a new training centre for people with learning disabilities has been withdrawn after funders got fed up waiting for plans to be finalised.

The decision has dealt a critical blow t

Some of the people which use the facility

EXCLUSIVE By John Elworthy

OVER £1.08 million earmarked for March to provide a new training centre for people with learning disabilities has been withdrawn after funders got fed up waiting for plans to be finalised.

The decision has dealt a critical blow to trustees and staff of FACET in Marwick Road where buildings used daily by up to 80 students are falling in around their ears.

The money had been agreed to help fund a new £1.85 million headquarters and training centre on a 2.7 acre site at Hostmoor.

But delays by FACET - the Fenland Area Community Enterprise Trust- in getting their plans together and appointing key staff to oversee the project were blamed this week for the money now going elsewhere.

A spokesman for EEDA -the East of England Development Agency- said the money was first offered three years ago and it had been expected the centre would by now be open.

"However building work on the project still hasn’t started," he said. "It has becoming increasingly apparent that FACET is not going to be able to meet the agreed investment timetable."

European funding would have provided £653,000 for the project, with a further £437,000 coming from EEDA to help buy the land for the new unit and some to help towards it construction.

The spokesman said, in a statement issued on behalf of GO East, EEDA and the Greater Cambridge Partnership - all supporters of the scheme- that they had "reluctantly concluded that they have no option but to withdraw from the project. This will allow the European funding to be spent on other projects in the East of England."

The spokesman said EEDA had provided money a year ago for a project manager to help deliver the new premises but this post still had not been filled.

"The main funding for the FACET project was from European Objective Two funding, which must be spent in full by the end of 2008," he said.

"To achieve this, all projects must be completed much earlier in the year to allow sufficient time for the accounting process to be completed and a full claim submitted."

EEDA has held numerous meetings with FACET but believe the March charity has lacked focus in getting their plans together for the new centre.

Councillor Jan French, the Mayor of March and recently appointed chairman of FACET trustees, says she is disappointed but hopes the charity can now finding a way to buy and redevelop their current site.

"It all became a bit of a stalemate," she said. "We couldn’t acquire the land for the new building from EEDA without the cash, and we couldn’t get that without planning permission. However to get the planning consent we needed to own the site."

Cllr French said she only joined the trustees as a town council representative in the autumn and was appointed chairman some months later.

" FACET manager Linda Ingram has worked hard to keep this centre going," she said. "It’s badly needed in Fenland. The concept for the new centre was brilliant- but perhaps too much for us at this time."

The centre is held on a peppercorn lease from the county council whose spokesman said they had made " no demands for maintenance or for good repair. We are sorry the FACET services are facing difficulties, we will continue to allow them to use the building and wish them well in finding grants to continue."

The spokesman added: "There are no plans for the county council to get involved. We don’t have the capital to replace the building, however, as it would impact on our ability to provide front line services."

EEDA officials privately believe that FACET let themselves down by not sticking to agreed timetables.

They are also thought to have been surprised by the levels of fees paid to architects and other professional bodies involved in the new building when they compared them to similar projects elsewhere. Those fees, amounting to some £200,000, will now be lost if the scheme is abandoned.

Mrs Ingram said: "We have never been able to persuade anyone to get to the point where we could appoint a project manager."

She added: "We could build, we didn’t own the land. EEDA owned the land."

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