Cost fear behind Portchester Community Centre bid being dropped

PLAN An artist's impression of the new Portchester Community Centre
PLAN An artist's impression of the new Portchester Community Centre
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A COMMUNITY association says it has only withdrawn reluctantly from a legal challenge about who will run Portchester’s new community centre.

The Portchester Community Association (PCA) had made moves to take Fareham Borough Council to court over its decision to award the lease for the £2m Portchester Community Centre to the only other bidder, Portchester Community School.

And although the PCA believes it had a good chance of winning, it could not afford the potential legal costs, and as reported in The News, withdrew its legal challenge at the end of last week.

The News has previously revealed that councillors dramatically overturned their officers’ opinions on which party submitted the better business plan – and backed the school.

Sarah Moss, manager for PCA said: ‘The PCA’s trustees have been advised that the council’s decision is unlawful, both substantively and procedurally.

‘The trustees believe that had the process has been conducted fairly, the council would have awarded the PCA the lease, thereby ensuring the community continue to receive the invaluable services it provides.

‘PCA is a small charity, and it is clear the council is determined to fight this matter all the way to the High Court.

‘Whilst PCA believes on legal advice that it would win, it cannot put at risk all its charitable funds. PCA therefore has to withdraw.’

The PCA has about £80,000 in its accounts, much of which was to go to kitting out the new building in Westlands Grove. Some of this was in the form of grants which will now have to be returned.

The trustees have yet to decide what will happen to the rest of the money and the association’s future, as well as ways of working with the school.

School headteacher Roger Matthews said: ‘I’m delighted we can start moving forward in implementing our plans for the centre.

‘One of the things that has been quite sad about this is that there have been a lot of comments about the wisdom of awarding the lease to the school, when we have a very good track record in delivering community services.

‘We very deliberately haven’t engaged in any slanging matches.

‘We are looking forward to working with existing community groups and a number of them have already been in touch.’