COMMUNITY groups in Helston have the chance to bid for up to £158,000 that has been made available by the town council.

It comes from the sale of the Passmore Edwards Institute (after fees were deducted) and two thirds of the sale proceeds must be spent on an “institute of technical instruction” to comply with a covenant put on the 3 Penrose Road building, which carries over with the sale.

The remaining third is now up for grabs, however – or the full amount if a bid can prove it fits the necessary criteria.

Helston Town Council has been vacillating over how to spend the cash since the start of the year.

Having agreed to ring-fence it so that it could only be used for building a new community centre, in January it was decided to instead free up the money for unspecified community projects, by a one-vote majority.

Just a month later, however, the money was once again tied up – for a community centre.

This is how it is has remained, until last Thursday when Helston Museum, the Epworth Hall and CAST – the Cornubian Arts and Science Trust that has taken over the previous community centre in 3 Penrose Road – put in a joint bid for the cash to further their projects.

A decision over this request had been deferred from the previous month, making this the first time that the newly-elected members who joined the council in May had a say on where the funds should go.

Leading the support for reallocating the money was councillor Martine Knight, who highlighted the Old Cattle Market building as an example of how difficult it was to fund a newly built community centre.

She claimed the money available |currently would be spent on feasibility and consultation costs alone, with the Old Cattle Market costing just short of £2 million to build – only possible by making 63 per cent of the space available to rent.

Mrs Knight questioned whether “hanging on” to such a project was best serving the population of Helston, adding: “Should we be using this money now to be supporting |community groups?”

Describing it as a “contentious issue” in which no decision would please everybody, councillor Nicola Roberts believed if the proposal to free up the money went ahead then any decision on how it should be spent should be deferred, in order for other community groups to apply.

Following a majority vote to free up the money, it was agreed to defer the matter for two months.

Any organisations wanting to put in a bid for the cash should apply in |writing to town clerk Chris Dawson by the end of December at the latest.

It means a further wait for the joint arts bid, with CAST having been |bidding for the cash for exactly a year, first putting in its request in November 2012.

Now, CAST has teamed up with |the Helston’s museum and theatre |to ask for joint funds. As previously reported, the museum wants to provide a visitor information centre in the entrance – and potentially a National Trust information point – and develop a research database for public use, which will allow visitors to search electronically for artefacts, photographs and documents within the museum’s collection.

The Epworth Hall has plans to improve access, to comply with latest standards and attract groups and |audiences from across the region, while CAST want to continue its |refurbishment and open a cafe to serve museum visitors as part of a linkup between the three organisations.

Earlier in last week’s meeting David Turnbull, secretary of the South Kerrier Heritage Trust that runs the museum, said: “Helston needs an investment that makes people want to come. Investment in its culture will attract people to this town and will put Helston on the map.

“My plea is don’t be the council that sits on its hands while Helston declines. Be the council that actually invests in Helston.”

Teresa Gleadowe, chairman of CAST, agreed saying: “I think this is a serious moment for the town.”