Concern over future of Damacre Centre

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A BRECHIN councillor has, once again, reiterated her fears for the future of the Damacre Community Centre if the local authority proceeds with its plans for a community campus at Brechin High School (writes Alan Ducat).

Mairi Evans spoke out at last week’s meeting of Angus neighbourhood services committee in the Town and County Hall, Forfar.

The councillor said she would not be moving against the report, which provided feedback from the consultation exercise with the Brechin community to help determine the extent of services to be provided on the Brechin High School campus.

However, she explained that an area of concern remained the implications for other council facilities – in particular the Damacre Centre.

The proposed realignment of the community learning and development service to operate from the new community campus would effectively make the Damacre Centre surplus to education department needs.

The report talks of the centre being a potential location for a new ‘community owned and managed service centre’.

But Councillor Evans asked what would be left to manage if services are relocated to the high school.

“If community learning and development is to be moved to the new community campus what will be left for people to manage and do at the Damacre Centre,” she commented.

“They will be left with an empty building. I would like to know what are the realistic uses for the Damacre Centre which don’t involve huge costs.

“It is always the same small group of people in the town who are involved in running community services and asking them to take on the added responsibility of hall management is too much.

“People in Brechin need and want services in the Damacre Centre.

“That is not because they don’t want things to change but because it is in the centre of town and easy to get to.

“All we want in Brechin is what every other community in Angus has, nothing more and nothing less.

“At the moment it looks like a cost-cutting exercise.”

However, Councillor Peter Nield argued that the report never once mentions or suggests any closure of the Damacre Centre.

“He said re-locating the community learning and development service to a new community campus at the high school was something that should not be feared.

“It should be seen as a benefit not just to the school but to the whole community.”

On the Damacre Centre itself, Councillor Nield added that what the report was seeking was how to secure a future for the centre, what it could be used for and how the community could get involved.

Angus director of neighbourhood services, in his report to committee, said that throughout the consultation period on how to development the community campus concept, it was made absolutely clear that the exercise was not predicated on the potential closure of existing facilities in the town.

“The consultation exercise was an opportunity for the whole community to comment on the proposals for this major investment at the very outset of the project, and to identify aspects where a ‘community campus’ could provide an opportunity to add value to and complement current service provision.”

The green light for the report paves the way for the director to explore the option of the Damacre Centre becoming a ‘community owned and managed service centre.’