A COMPLEX legal battle has forced the closure of a Widnes community centre.
Chapelfield Community Centre in Wilsden Road, Hough Green was used by more than 400 people, from babies to pensioners, who belong to various groups, from dancing and yoga to painting, healthy living, mental health and job training.
It is a Widnes Foodbank distribution centre and has a garden created by the Prince’s Trust.
A community development worker organised many innovative projects.
Volunteers who ran the centre hoped to refurbish the 28-year-old building and approached the Methodist Church, who own the land, for permission.
They discovered they now need a lease and can’t afford the annual £15,000 fee set by the church.
Trustee Janet Paul said: “It is absolutely devastating. It is impossible for us to pay this. It is more than our income.
“We have been doing good charitable work meeting the needs of local people. It was built for communtiy use.”
St Michael’s with St Thomas’ Anglican Church and St Basil and All Saints offered £50,000 to buy it but the Methodists want £250,000.
Rev Peter Dawkin of All Saints said: “The building was paid for by a grant of £112,000 from Europe funds and £50,000 was raised by the local church and community.”
Halton Clr Tony McDermott said: “This is a result of what seems to be a reckless decision by the Methodist circuit to capitalise on a community centre which has done great work for over a quarter of a century.
Rev Lucille Rogers, superintendent minister of Sankey Valley Methodist Circuit, said: “The Methodist circuit has tried for over a year to find a solution that is acceptable and workable for both the Methodist Church and Chapelfield Community Centre Charity Ltd but sadly has been unable to do so.
“We deeply regret the loss of the community centre as a valuable facility for the local community.”