Lifeline for embattled Mepal Outdoor Centre

A COMMUNITY group has stepped in to offer the embattled Mepal Outdoor Centre a lifeline as it fights to stay open.

The centre was facing almost certain closure by the middle of this month after East Cambridgeshire District Council refused requests for an �85,000 grant to cover the centre over the winter.

This week however, Cambridgeshire ACRE, a rural support council based in Littleport, has offered its services to help “safeguard the much-loved community resource”.

The trustees of the outdoor centre have entered into a working arrangement with Cambridgeshire ACRE, which has offered to bring expertise in the management of community-run organisations.

Kirsten Bennett, chief executive of Cambridgeshire ACRE, said: “Our plan is to work collaboratively to overcome some of the current difficulties the centre has been facing and to begin to shape a business plan for taking Mepal Outdoor Centre forward.

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“At the heart of this initiative is our belief that this valuable asset should be safeguarded for the benefit of local people and the wider community.”

When news of the centre’s woes first came to light, the district council accused the trust of lacking a detailed business plan or strategy for improvement and income generation.

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The council says it provided “significant support” to help set up the centre, including a 99-year lease on a peppercorn rent and more than �700,000 of investment into the facility, in Chatteris Road.

Fiona Wynn, a trustee of the centre, said: “This development signals the start of the new era for Mepal Outdoor Centre.

“We now have new trustees committed to a turnaround plan and by working in partnership with Cambridgeshire ACRE we are optimistic that we can tackle the challenges ahead.”

To keep in touch with developments at the Centre, follow Mepal Outdoor Centre on Facebook.

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