Council cuts blamed for plans to close Middleton-in-Teesdale outdoor learning centre (From The Advertiser Series)
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Council cuts blamed for plans to close Middleton-in-Teesdale outdoor learning centre
CUTS to Durham County Council's budget are being blamed for proposals to close a rural outward bound centre.
Officials say the Middleton Centre for Outdoor Learning, in Bridge Street, Middleton-in-Teesdale, should close from March 31.
They say the council can no longer afford the £77,000 yearly subsidy it pays to keep the centre afloat and costly repairs are needed to the building's heating system, roof and kitchen.
However, a campaign has begun in the village in a bid to win a stay of execution to allow staff at the centre to explore other ways of running the complex.
The centre is used as the base for a host of outdoor activities. It can cater for groups of up to 38 youngsters and six accompanying members of staff and boasts a range of facilities including a classroom, dining room, lounge and games room.
Adam Hearn, who runs the nearby Kingsway Adventure Centre, is among those backing the campaign to save the complex.
“A rescue plan has been submitted to the county council.
"The plan calls for a low level of support from the council during 2013-14 to allow the staff to explore the opportunities for handing over the centre to a third sector organisation, such as a trust or charity,” he said.
“The rescue plan will solve the problems the council give as the main reasons for closing the centre.
"Any ongoing financial risk will be removed from the council if the centre is handed over to a third party.”
Mr Hearn added: “For some young people a trip to Middleton may be the only residential educational visit of their lives. It would be a tragedy if the centre were to close.”
Durham County Council is currently undertaking a consultation process into the closure proposal and any comments must be submitted by January 31.
Phil Hodgson, support and development manager at Durham County Council, said: “We have received feedback from a number of schools and organisations which use the centre and we will consider this as part of the consultation process.
“It would be too early to call any of the suggestions put forward a rescue package but we will consider all viable proposals before any final decision is made.”