Help save centre’s future

Sue Gibson, Emma and Tony Devine with children at the Northowram Community centre.
Sue Gibson, Emma and Tony Devine with children at the Northowram Community centre.

Campaigners in Northowram have urged people to join a fund-raising mission to help save their much-used historic building.

The future of Northowram Community Centre has been thrown into doubt unless cash can be raise for vital repairs to the 150-year-old building.

It has been widely used by community groups and organisations for years but after a delapidation survey, the centre’s owners Wakefield Diocese - on behalf of St Matthew’s Church - have said £250,000 worth of extensive refurbishment is needed for it to remain fit for use.

John Faulkes, retiring chairman of the community centre association, said it is proposed to divide the work into two phases. The first is to raise £80,000 over the next five years for repairs to the top hall, which dates back to the 1850s.

The second phase is to completely refurbish the bottom hall, built in the 1930s, at an estimated £150,000 cost.

On top of their mammoth fund-raising challenge, users of the hall have been told to expect large rent increases.

Mr Faulkes said: “It’s a double whammy really. With the first phase, it’s mainly the external fabric of the buiding. So we have five years to get the work done for the top hall. I’m confident we will raise money to get that done, but the bottom hall is different. That requires external funding within two years.”

The association is currently in the process of securing a new long-term lease on the building, which Mr Faulkes hopes will boost chances of securing funding for phase two.

The local community flocked to the centre on Sunday to kick off its fund-raising campaign with an autumn fair and Judo competition, which raised more than £1,500.

Mr Faulkes said: “The opinion from the people on Sunday was that they agreed with us - it is a valuable asset. It’s used every night - quite often both halls.”

Sue Gibson, who runs Northowram Kids Club at the centre, said: “We had a lot of support, it was packed. We ‘re chuffed to raise that amount of money. It’s a great start.”

Mrs Gibson said she was shocked when she heard the estimated total bill for the works.

“It is in a bad state of repair but I didn’t think it was that bad. I’m more hopeful now as there’s a lot of people offering support.”

But volunteers are needed to join the assocation’s committee and the fund-raising committee. Anyone interested can email Mrs Gibson at northowramkids@tiscali.co.uk or visit the campaign’s Facebook page by searching Save Northowram Community Centre.