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Takeover group now the council’s preferred proposal
PEOPLE power seems to have won the day with a much-valued outdoor centre now poised to stay in the hands of the community.
A community-led bid to take over Malvern Hills Outdoor Ed-ucation Centre is now firmly in pole position after private provider Acorn Ventures – originally Worcestershire County Coun-cil’s preferred bidder – pulled out of the race to take control.
Council cabinet members are now being recommended to app-rove the takeover by the Malv-ern community interest company (CIC) – made up of current staff and supporters and backed by local councillors – when it meets on Thursday.
The community takeover will be on a 60-year lease at a “nominal” rent and the CIC will be responsible for maintaining and investing in the centre’s equipment and buildings, some of which will need significant investment.
The community bid only emerged at a very late stage due to concerns that the educational offering at the West Malvern centre would suffer from a transfer into private hands.
County councillor Beverley Niel-sen said she was delighted at having moved from “rank outsider” to being the recommended bid.
She said: “It is a credit to the staff at the Malvern Hills Outdoor Education Centre, to their manager and, of course, to the support from the community, in particular from our key partner, local charity the Bransford Trust.”
She said there was still “quite some way to go”, with the bid having to be thoroughly checked if it is approved, but added: “It is a big turnaround from the start position in November when I took the cabinet recommendation to move forward to a deal with the commercial bidder to our scrutiny board.
“In this short timeframe we have been able to pull together a bid, a business plan, a board of people prepared to take this on and help ensure we maintain our current high standards at the centre for the benefit of young people in Worcestershire.”
Recommending the bid, cabinet member for education and skills, Jane Potter, said officers “now have sufficient confidence” the community business plan meets the council’s original criteria for a takeover, adding that they had produced a “credible marketing plan”.
Part of the community take-over will see preferential rates guaranteed for young people and ensure the centre’s assets are kept for “the primary purpose of outdoor activities and learning”.