With four of its five trustees having resigned and the manager Andy Bryant, this week taking up a new position at the Barrington Centre in Ferndown the Allendale Centre has reached a crossroads - and not for the first time.
The centre is managed on behalf of East Dorset District Council by the Wimborne and District Community Association and in March 2011 the eight committee members resigned as they were not prepared to sign up to a new agreement put forward by EDDC.
In July that year a new team was formed under the chairmanship of Wayne Parsons and at the time he said he was determined that the community centre should reflect the needs and expectations of the people of Wimborne.
However, last year East Dorset District Council announced its intention to move its offices from Furzehill to a new hub on the Allendale site which would include some community space.
Councillor Sue Cook, said: “I was surprised to hear the news of the resignation of the trustees. As town council representative I was not made aware of this and heard the news from an outside source. I understand that there are various reasons including ill health which have resulted in these resignations.
“The situation as I understand it now, is that the district council have indicated that it is up to the Allendale community association to form a new committee and then appoint a new manager.
“I have very serious concerns now that this space could be in jeopardy. We have already been told that any area allowed could be doubled up as a council chamber, which suggests it may not be very large. If there are difficulties in forming a new committee, one can only anticipate that EDDC will say that Wimborne people obviously don’t require a community centre, and that a small room will suffice. That would be a great pity, the Minster Hall is used very regularly for Wimborne in Bloom annual quiz, Soggy Biscuit Tea Dances etc.”
Shirley Webb who had been chairman of the association from 1982-2011, has taken over as acting manager, and Vera Ricketts, the only remaining trustee has assumed the role of chairman.
Mrs Ricketts said: “I want to reassure people that all the bookings are fine, but I have called an extraordinary general meeting at 7pm on Wednesday 23rd April and I hope we will attract other trustees and volunteers. The staff have been assured that their jobs are safe.”
Judith Plumley, head of community & leisure at East Dorset District Council, said: “The Allendale Centre is managed by the Wimborne and District Community Association (WDCA), not the council, although the council owns the building and is a significant funding partner. The manager at the Allendale Centre has been appointed to a new role at the Barrington Centre in Ferndown.
“The Community Association has been working for some time with the council to develop ideas for a new community facility in a possible new civic centre in Wimborne; a community engagement event has been planned to take place in May to involve the wider community in these ideas. More details in due course.
“Although the fact of the manager moving on is unsettling for any community centre because they naturally are close to their customers, it is no more than the normal staffing fluctuations in any organisation. The Council is already working with the WDCA to support them in finding a replacement for the manager. In the meantime the WDCA want to reassure current and potential customers that it is business as usual. There is no suggestion that there is any threat to the Folk Festival or any other event at the centre planned for the coming year.”
The council has responded to a reader’s concerns about the boarded up door on the front of the building and rubbish and disused furniture outside the centre adjacent to the river.
A council spokesman said: “We have requested two quotes from door/window manufacturers. They have measured up and we’re waiting for the quotes to come through.
“We have organised a contractor to remove all rubbish and dispose of it off-site to a certificated waste site and to level the ground and add additional top soil where required.”
He added the work was taking place this week and would continue until today, Friday.
Wimborne deserves a vibrant community centre. If you would like to become involved contact Vera Ricketts on 01202 886844.