Council changes its mind on new centre secrecy

An artist's impression of the new Portchester Community Centre
An artist's impression of the new Portchester Community Centre

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COUNCIL bosses have made a U-turn over plans to decide in secret who will run a new community centre.

Fareham Borough Council will now choose who will run the new £2m Portchester Community Centre at a public meeting.

Senior councillors had previously told The News they wouldn’t discuss the matter because it was financially sensitive, and therefore confidential.

And because of that need for confidentiality, the matter was to be decided at the end of this evening’s meeting of the ruling executive, with the press and public excluded.

But the council says it has changed its mind because of the level of public interest.

Council leader, councillor Sean Woodward said: ‘Fareham Borough Council is ultimately investing over £2m of cash and resources into the new Portchester Community Centre and this decision is too important to the community of Portchester to be made behind closed doors.

‘I have therefore asked officers to remove any necessarily confidential information from the report and to make it public.’

Portchester Community Association, which runs the current facility at Westlands Grove, and Portchester Community School were invited to submit business plans setting out how they proposed to run the centre.

Both made presentations to and were quizzed about their plans by the Portchester Community Centre task and finish panel, which is overseeing the project, behind closed doors last month.

The new centre is being built next to the one it will replace, which was deemed unfit for purpose on health and safety grounds.

Stella Bell is a volunteer at the centre and is planning to make a deputation.

She said: ‘It’s absolutely fantastic news that this will now be held in public. People will now be able to see democracy at work. I can only be optimistic that we will be listened to as well.’

The panel has passed its recommendation to the executive. The executive meeting today will go ahead but without the community centre on the agenda.

The special meeting of the executive is at 5pm on Monday, June 18 at the council’s civic offices.

Anyone who wants to make a deputation on June 18 can register their request by emailing democratic services@fareham.gov.uk or calling (01329) 824594 by midday on June 14.