A charity that intends to use the Burton Centre as a community hub has defended its application after the town council reasserted its opposition.
St Nicholas Hospice Care is the preferred bidder by Suffolk County Council to take over the running of the youth centre, though Haverhill Town Council is contemplating legal action against the county council over the decision.
Town councillors are outraged that their bid was rejected when youth provision is a key objective for the town and part of the localism agenda under ONE Haverhill, and using any other building would see taxpayers’ money spent making it suitable for youth services when the Burton Centre, in Camps Road, is already ideal.
Now the council is likely to launch a judical review against the county council’s after receiving encouraging feedback from the Suffolk Association of Local Authorities (SALC), whom they approached for advice.
Despite the town council’s criticism being of the county council and not the hospice, the charity is keen to reassure people that it too is aiming towards something that will benefit the town.
Kevin Clements, fund raising and marketing director for St Nicholas Hospice Care, said: “The hospice’s focus is on the Haverhill community and how we can best serve their needs.
“We are keen to work with the town council and have not ruled out the possibility of them using the Burton Centre in the future.
“We are also very keen to work with the existing community groups that use the centre and have already started having discussions with them and plan more in the coming months.
“We have been completely transparent about our proposals for the building, which we have also shared with the town council.”
The hospice hub would contain a shop and café and services for patients, families and carers, and also therapy, bereavement counselling and legal surgeries.
The existing High Street shop would remain.
A hospice spokeswoman said: “We looked at a number of buildings in the Haverhill area, but the Burton Centre is by far the best site for hospice community activity, and offers a unique opportunity for the hospice to meet the needs of the people of Haverhill.
“Suffolk County Council has told us that essential repair work is needed for the building, but our plans go even further to improve disabled access and facilities, as we want to make sure that everyone can access the building to make best use of the space.
“The hospice has the chance to bring a pot of government money – which is only available to hospices – to the town to offer services from the community centre.
“If St Nicholas Hospice Care does not bring the funding here it will go to another part of the country.”
Barbara Gale, St Nicholas Hospice Care chief executive, said: “Death and dying affects everyone so we want to be in the town to help support members of the Haverhill community during difficult times.
“When we spoke to people in the town they told us they felt Haverhill was a ‘forgotten town’ and that they wanted our hospice care to come here.
“Our plans for the Burton Centre would enable us to fulfil their wishes.
“Supporting families and young people is an important part of our work and we have not discounted hosting youth activity in the building.”
If St Nicholas Hospice Care’s planning applications are approved, it plans to turn the underused Camps Road centre into a community centre to deliver local hospice care to everyone in Haverhill and the surrounding areas.
The plans would bring the underutilised building back into full use and make it accessible to all members of the community.
Proposals for the Hospice community centre include a shop unit and café as well as services for patients, families and carers including support groups, complementary therapies, bereavement counselling and legal surgeries.
Suffolk County Council opted for the hospice bid over the town council’s youth provision idea and justified the decision saying it did not favour schemes that are taxpayer funded, thus saying a charity relying on donations is more financially sound that a local authority with precept raising powers.
However, the hospice bid is dependant on £500,000 of Department of Health funding.
The town council says the decision threatens the localism agenda.
For all the latest news see Thursday’s (February 14) Echo.