THE community centre in a Cornish town is at risk of closing if it cannot source additional funding.

Trustees at the Lostwithiel Community Centre, located on Pleyber Christ Way in the town, have warned that unless further financial help can be secured, it is at risk of closing due to the additional costs brought on by energy costs, which have increased from £8,500 per year to £24,000 on top of increasing repair requirements to the 40-year-old building.

Lostwithiel Town Council has provided short-term funding to keep the community centre afloat in the interim, allowing the trustees behind the charity which runs the centre time to try and raise the funds to repair the building, which could cost as much as £1-million.

At a recent public consultation evening to discuss the situation, trustees said that long-term issues with the building had persisted for a number of years, telling attendees that: "The Centre opened 40 years ago following a fundraising campaign by local residents of the town and surrounding area, with the Lostwithiel Community Association being formed to run and administer the centre. By 2018, however, the association was facing huge problems trying to maintain the building after serious faults with the structure began to develop. A new LCA was formed to rescue the centre from closure with a new board of trustees. The LCA is now a registered charity, with the new trustees being responsible to the Charity Commission for the running of the centre on behalf of everyone within the community.

"The centre is now managed by a much smaller team of staff than previously, Kirsty Mitchell, the centre manger, a caretaker and 8 part time cafe staff. In order to provide the amazing range of activities and events, the centre relies heavily on local volunteers, indeed it would be unable to survive without them."

Among the efforts to save the community centre from closure include a 'substantial' grant bid being submitted to upgrade the performing arts section of the centre, as well as successfully obtaining a government grant to fund an architectural plan to assess what the new-look centre could be like if the money is found.

A statement from the trustees of the Lostwithiel Community Association added: "With a lot of hard work and support from organisations such as the Rotary Club of Lostwithiel as well as local individuals, the centre began to tackle the serious issues it faced. The pandemic, however, hit the centre’s financial recovery plans while repairs and basic maintenance had still to be carried out. Following the pandemic, even though many groups were slow to rebuild, we were able to increase our gross income from £69.000 to £115,690, this was, however, offset by increasing maintenance and repair costs and an energy bill which rocketed from £8,500 a year to £24,000. In order to remain open the trustees were forced to use what limited reserves they had and this is of course unsustainable.

"The Town Council has now provided the support necessary to delay an immediate decision but this is a short term fix since the Charity Commission who audit the centre accounts will not accept us carrying a deficit budget. The fact that our centre is still open is down to the work of our centre manager who has successfully cut costs to a minimum and successfully gained a number of grants and donations for urgent repairs and refurbishment. The reality is however that like most local community centres, rental income is not keeping up with expenditure, especially at a time when local people are struggling with the challenges of their own budgets. 

"The trustees are well aware of the challenging times local people faced forty years ago when, against all the odds of austerity, they turned their dream of a community centre into reality. We now need to channel that same energy from a new generation. In order to survive the centre needs to be more adaptable to local needs, it needs to be more energy efficient and it needs to manage major works to the roof, doors and windows and drains. So how to do this while still trying to make our limited ends meet? The centre’s current Business Plan has achieved most of its aims but is no longer sufficient to meet the new challenges we now face and is in the process of being rewritten. 

"As part of this process a number of local surveys have been carried out to determine current use, satisfaction levels and suggested improvements results of this are available on the centre’s website.

"The trustees have now obtained a government grant to fund architects’ proposals for a way forward, these have now been drawn up and are available to inspect at the centre. These early plans offer us an indication of what is possible if we can raise the £1,000,000 for the necessary repairs and upgrades to the current building.

"We are currently waiting for news on a substantial grant application to upgrade our performing arts spaces to enable us to provide a wider offering to local organisations. We now need to harness the wealth of energy, commitment and community spirit which exists in this town. We all know that closure of the centre would have catastrophic consequences on our community and we will be seeking opportunities over the next few months for you to support our determination to keep it open for the next generation."