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Wednesday, 26 November 2014

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Time running out to save Whitehaven Civic Hall

Time is running out to save a popular entertainment venue in west Cumbria with just weeks to be rescued before it is consigned to the scrapheap for good.

Whitehaven Civic Hall is due to close on October 31 as part of Copeland Council’s cost cutting measures.

The authority must make additional savings of £1m by 2016 on top of the £3 million already saved by slashing services and jobs. An annual saving of £171,000 needs to be made to keep the civic hall open.

The Lowther Street facility, which hosts concerts, parties, exercise classes, dance schools and more, faces the axe unless an outside group steps in to run it without any subsidy from the council.

Copeland Council leader Elaine Woodburn said she’s hopeful it can be saved as talks are ongoing with potentially interested parties – but admits time is running out.

She said: “We have been working with community groups, individuals and other organisations but none have been able to come up with a plan to take it on.

“If the people we are talking to can’t come up with a solution it will close.”

North Country Leisure (NCL), which manages the civic hall on behalf of the council, said it has been looking at ways to reduce its subsidy in a bid to help keep the building open.

It has also been working with local user groups and organisations to try and thrash out a resolution over the hall’s future.

John Maude, NCL chief executive, said: “We will be sad to leave the civic hall.

“We sincerely hope that ways can be found to continue the community activities and events which have been based there.”

Residents in Whitehaven have voiced their disappointment at the fast-approaching demise of their town’s civic hall.

Susan Haldane wrote on a community web page that both her daughters use the hall with the Hensingham Centre and added that a lot of local dance schools will be forced to find somewhere else if it closes.

She also wrote: “It’s a crying shame. I really thought someone would have taken it over.

“Another empty building to go with the derelict church opposite. Welcome to Whitehaven – not.”

Christine Wharrier posted: “The question is how much will it cost for securing he site?”

And Lynne Hicks wrote: “This is sad times for Whitehaven. It really is a shame that nobody has taken it over. The council are killing this town off.”

Copeland council revealed earlier this year that it would be scrapping funding for The Beacon Museum in Whitehaven, which was only saved when Sellafield stepped in.

Miss Woodburn said: “This is not through financial mismanagement or wasted money – we are a lean, efficient authority but 40 per cent of our budget has gone.”

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