Managers of new £2m Portchester Community Centre hope to surprise locals

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THE management team of a new community centre have pledged to work closely with locals in a bid to put recent controversies behind them.

Staff from Portchester Community School will be picking up the reins at the new £2m Portchester Community Centre, which is due to be finished towards the end of the year, and officially opened in January.

Fareham Borough Council chose the school to run the new centre over Portchester Community Association, which runs the existing centre at Westlands Grove, and tendered the only other bid for the lease.

The PCA was set to challenge the decision at court but recently withdrew its appeal on financial grounds.

Jane Gillespie, community manager at the school, said: ‘People in Portchester will be surprised at the range of provision we have and we want to let people know what we do.

‘The school is used seven days a week and from 7am until 10pm Monday to Friday by a full range of groups.

‘The centre will become part of that provision.’

Lucy Redfern, community leader at the school, will run the centre alongside Mrs Gillespie and added: ‘We have experience working with people of all ages, commercial businesses and local authorities.

‘We want to get the message out there that this is already happening and it’s very much something we are experienced in.’

There have been concerns about what will happen to volunteers and groups already based at the centre.

Miss Redfern said: ‘We would be happy to have them come in and working with us.

‘We have spoken to a lot of them already and we have also had people contact us and say they want to carry on which is very promising for us and it shows there is support in the community for us.

‘We’ve also been approached by new groups who want to use the centre.

‘We are looking for our own funding grants and we have been fundraising so we do have a bit of leeway to buy new equipment.’

The school deliberately kept a low profile during the row over the council’s choice and Miss Redfern said: ‘We know we have done what we had to do, and the council made its decision, but that’s why we have kept out of everything that has been going on since. We didn’t want to get drawn into that.’