School wins lease to run new Portchester Community Centre

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

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A COMMUNITY association is considering a challenge to a council’s decision to give the lease to run a new community centre to a local school.

Fareham Borough Council’s ruling executive decided at a special meeting to offer the lease for the new Portchester Community Centre to Portchester Community School.

The only other candidate was Portchester Community Association (PCA), which has been running the current centre at Westlands Grove since it opened in 1963.

A new £2m facility is being built on land next to the existing centre as the old one is no longer fit for purpose.

A task and finish panel, which has been overseeing the project for the council, met behind closed doors last month to examine both candidates’ business plans and decide on its recommendation to the executive on who should run the centre.

A council officer’s report scored both business plans out of 100 on a number of criteria, giving the PCA a score of 63 and the school a score of 64.

A petition signed by 1,511 people backing the PCA’s bid was also presented last night.

And more than 40 members of the public packed the public gallery of the council chamber, applauding deputations made in favour of the PCA.

There were several references to a poor relationship between the council and the PCA in the past. Giving a deputation, Portchester councillor Roger Price said: ‘I nail my colours quite clearly to the mast – if we had not been building a new community centre, the current administration would be continuing, and I believe it should continue.’

Executive members Cllr Connie Hockley, Cllr Trevor Cartwright and Cllr Leslie Keeble took part in the debate but abstained from voting on the grounds that they had all been part of the task and finish panel.

Cllr Sean Woodward, Cllr Brian Bayford and Cllr Keith Evans all backed the report’s recommendation to offer the lease to the school.

Centre manager Sarah Moss said afterwards that the PCA would consider legal action. She said: ‘We are very disappointed for the people of Portchester. We are going to examine and take advice on our next steps.

‘We would like to thank everyone who came along from the many different user groups.’

Centre user Shaun Cunningham added: ‘The councillors have failed miserably to listen to the people of Fareham – they had a closed mind.’

The school’s headteacher Roger Matthews said: ‘Our community record is very strong.’

And he added that the school’s education budget could not be affected by the centre.