Disability centre is now desperate to find a buyer asdasg
A FISHPONDS centre for disability organisations could be sold if a suitable rescue package is not found.
As reported by The Post in September the nationally-acclaimed Vassall Centre has been threatened with closure because the board that runs it cannot afford the maintenance bill that has been estimated at more than £5 million over the next ten years.
But at a public meeting at the centre yesterday people who use the facility raised their concerns about the future and some said they had lost confidence in the trustees. The meeting was called for interested parties to try and help the board come up with a solution for the centre's future.
Members of the Vassall Centre Trust confirmed that a company has been appointed to market the site to potential buyers but said the ideal situation would be to sell it as a going concern.
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Chief executive Andy Rickell told the meeting that the trust could no longer afford to run the centre and needed to find a different arrangement that "transferred the financial risk of running it away from the centre".
"We have said that we are trying to find a rescue bid," Mr Rickell said.
"We might have to sell the land because a rescue bid is not forthcoming.
"That we are sort of up for sale but only if you are interested in taking on the centre to run as it is, is a difficult message.
"There have been informal conversations with people about different opportunities for how the centre might be saved."
He said that despite discussions with interested parties they could not be revealed due to confidentiality issues.
Chairman Gordon Richardson told the meeting that the trust was considering ideas that might save the building.
"As much as we would like to raise the money to do it we don't think we are going to do it," he said.
"The opportunity is here to come up with ideas and we are very open to ideas."
Organisations that have helped fund parts of the centre raised concerns about donations they had made over the last 15 years.
Roderick Shaw from the James Tudor Foundation told the meeting he had gone along to represent the views of some of the key funders of the Vassall Centre.
"We are feeling frustration as we have invested a lot of time in this building. I think the greatest frustration for us is that this meeting has come after the public announcement."
Bob Woodward, who was involved with the Starfish Trust which made a grant that went to the centre, said: "How does one restore confidence in this place because the board has destroyed it.
"The only way I can see is for you as a board to step aside and find people who can be rededicated to this place and recapture the vision."
Roger Blake of the Grand Mark Lodge of Gloucestershire and Herefordshire told the meeting that the Masons had contributed about £25,000 to the centre 18 months ago.
"When I heard it might potentially close down I was left in the position of having to go back and explain to people why they parted with the best part of £25,000 if it is closing down."
Paul Baker, whose father David co-founded the centre, said: "This is a very special place and everyone who comes here is very touched by it."
Former fundraiser for the centre, Bob Przytocki, suggested that people consider what founder of the centre the late Sue McMullen might have thought.
South Gloucestershire councillor Janet Biggin attended to find out what was happening to "this wonderful building that has meant so many things to so many people, who if it is lost will be devastated".