New group attempting to save Fishponds disability centre from closure
A newly-formed group is set to meet for the first time tomorrow in its attempt to save a Fishponds disability centre from closure.
The Friends of the Vassall Centre has been founded by original trustees of the charity and supporters concerned about its future after the board that runs it announced it cannot afford the maintenance of the building.
Its first meeting comes as it emerged that the trust in charge of the centre had been successful in applying for the site to be designated as an asset of community value. The Vassall Centre is the first in the city to be given the status under the community right to bid scheme and means that if community groups register an interest in buying it they have six months to prepare a bid, during which time the property cannot be sold on the open market.
Chief executive the Vassall Centre Trust, Andy Rickell, said: “We decided it was in our interests to understand our obligations under this particular piece of legislation and to take responsibility for acknowledging that this might be a community asset that someone else wanted to list. If they wanted to do that, why not do it ourselves.
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“We recognised there might be an issue and wanted to get clarity for ourselves so we are able to talk to people about the centre. It would kick in if the trust was wanting to sell the centre for redevelopment. If that was the case there would be a danger the centre would be lost and that is why the right to bid exists. We are hoping not to do that, we are hoping to find a rescue bid, in which case that would not be an issue because we will have a future for the centre.
“I hope it indicates to people that when we said we were looking at a rescue bid we really did mean that.”
As previously reported in The Post, the Vassall Centre Trust has said it cannot afford to run the site and needs to find a different arrangement to transfer the risk away from them.
Supporters of the trust, including those who fundraised for it and were original trustees, fear the centre will be lost under its current leadership.
Bob Woodward, a founding member of the Friends of the Vassall Centre Trust, said: “What we want to do is demonstrate that there are a lot of people who are very supportive of seeing the centre continue. We want to show the trustees the strength of feeling and also that within the friends there are people who would be suitable as trustees of the trust.”
Paul Baker, whose father David co-founded the Vassall Centre, said: “If there is compelling evidence that the best future for the Vassall Centre Trust is to dispose of the Vassall Centre buildings, then I would of course back that course of action, but if there is not compelling evidence, I will do what I can to enable it to survive and thrive.”
He said he would be keen to join the Vassall Centre Trust board.