The much-loved Grendon Hall activity centre will close next month as part of Northamptonshire County Council budget cuts.
The authority has said that with ‘much regret’ it has decided to stop funding the popular education and activity centre because it says it ‘cannot afford to maintain its subsidy for the centre’.
The news has come out of the blue and will be a blow to many families and young people as the 16th century hall has been a popular venue for decades.
The county authority, which is being run by Government-appointed commissioners because of financial mismanagement, has said the centre will close on March 20.
It follows a confidential report discussed by councillors in December 2017 to attempt to find a buyer for the hall as an ongoing concern as an outdoor learning centre. The authority sold off its Longtown Outdoor Education Centre in the Brecon Beacons last August.
Wellingborough council leader Martin Griffiths, who is also a county councillor, says he was surprised and disappointed when he was told of the closure plans by chief executive Theresa Grant earlier this month.
He said: “It was a complete surprise to me. I would have liked to have been consulted on it. It will be a huge loss as it is the kind of place that builds people and shores up your life.
“I have now got an assurance that I and Wellingborough council will be consulted moving forward. The building is so well kept that we must be able to find a suitable use for it.”
The councillor has started an online petition to stop any development of the hall and its grounds. Any change of use would have to be agreed by Wellingborough Council, which is the planning authority.
The hall is set in an 18-acre site and came into the county council’s ownership after the Second World War. The authority has been asked how much it will save by closing the centre.
A finance report from last month said the authority has underspent by £46,000 this year on its outdoor learning costs.
A spokesman for Northamptonshire County Council said: “A decision was made in December 2017 by the cabinet to attempt to find a buyer for Grendon Hall as a going concern as an outdoor learning centre. It was a confidential cabinet paper, due to the commercial sensitivities.
“The decision was made that if this wasn’t possible the outdoor learning centre should close. Unfortunately despite ongoing efforts to find a suitable buyer this has not been possible and reluctantly the council now has to close the facility.
“The council cannot afford to maintain its subsidy for this centre and as such it will close its doors on March 20. It is with much regret that this decision has to be taken. We are communicating directly with all schools and groups which have booked on to courses at Grendon Hall which will no longer be able to take place.
“Northamptonshire schools will be offered some financial assistance with additional charges they may incur when booking with alternative providers in order to minimise the impact on parental contributions.”