A tetchy and passionate debate by Helston’s town councillors has resulted in money from the sale of the Passmore Edwards Institute no longer being set aside for a new community centre.
The council received £158,000 from the sale of the former community centre at 3 Penrose Road last August, two thirds of which has been ring-fenced for a project that complies with a covenant put on the centre.
This insists that the money must be spent on an institute of technical instruction.
The rest had been earmarked for a community centre to replace the loss of the institute, as agreed three years ago.
Including church halls, Helston already has at least ten buildings available for community use and last week Councillor Mike Thomas suggested the funds now be spent differently.
Mr Thomas said: “Three years ago, when we decided we would use the money from the sale for a new community centre, Helston was a very different town.”
At that time the future of the Old Cattle Market was still being discussed, and it was not known the town’s Light and Life Church would create a “fantastic and highly useable” centre on the Water-ma-Trout industrial estate or that the Epworth Hall would progress so far.
“As custodians of this money we have got the opportunity to reappraise and our original plan can probably be slightly changed. Instead of planning for a community centre we make money available for community projects,” he suggested.
“I personally see no discernible evidence that at the moment, in 2013, there is any perceived need for any additional community centre.”
His view was not shared by all of the members. Councillor Niall Devenish said: “When this council took the decision to sell the building it was under the very specific condition that it would be to provide a new community centre for Helston, fit for the 21st century.”
He said around 1,000 extra homes were planned for Helston in the coming years, particularly in the north of the town, where there was a need for more facilities.
“There is a large swathe of this town that has no community facilities,” he added. “To make a decision without properly looking at this issue and to dilute the money would be very, very remiss.”
Mr Devenish said he would not have the council “bounced into a decision by a little bit of PR” from certain groups in the town, adding the “ridiculous proposal” would result in the “frittering away” of the money.
Councillor Sue Swift said more facilities were needed for the elderly of the town.
Mr Thomas did, however, have support from Councillor Keith Reynolds, who said: “There is no shortage of community space, but we could do an awful lot of good.”
The proposal that the currently un-ring-fenced money be ring-fenced for community based projects was carried by five votes in favour, with four against and two abstentions.
The announcement resulted in an uneasy silence, broken only by Mrs Swift telling members: “You should be ashamed and disgusted.”
Do you still want to see the money spent on a community centre in Helston or would it be better spent on other projects? Have your say online at thepacket.co.uk, email firstname.lastname@example.org or write to the usual address.