Middleton-in-Teesdale outdoor centre to close for good on March 31 (From Darlington and Stockton Times)
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Middleton-in-Teesdale outdoor learning centre to close for good on March 31
THE death knell has sounded for an outward bound centre which has given thousands of children a taste of life in rural County Durham.
Durham County Council confirmed this week the Middleton Centre for Outdoor Learning, in Bridge Street, Middleton-in-Teesdale, will close for good on March 31.
Officials from the authority say they cannot afford the £77,000 annual subsidy it pays to keep the centre open.
Repairs are also needed to the building's heating system, roof and kitchen.
A campaign to persuade the council to think again was launched during a consultation process in January, and alternatives to closure were put forward. However, no suitable arrangements could be made.
Phil Hodgson, support and development manager at Durham County Council, said the decision to close the centre had not been an easy one.
“We recognise that this will be disappointing for some people,” he said.
“However, in these difficult financial times it is not possible for the council to continue to subsidise the centre’s running and, as no firm offers of sufficient funding have been received, we have no alternative but to confirm the closure of the centre with effect from March 31.”
Mr Hodgson added: “During a consultation on the proposals we received eight responses from members of the public.
“We also wrote to schools and other interested parties to seek their views.
“Four schools wrote letters in support of keeping the centre open and some schools discussed the possibility of providing interim funding themselves, however this would not have been sufficient to keep the centre open.”
The centre has accommodation for 38 youngsters and up to six members of staff at any one time to use as a base for activities such as moorland habitat studies, lead mining trail walking, navigation and orienteering.
Groups have also been given the chance to explore the nearby auction mart, gaining an insight into how upland farms operate.
Adam Hearn, who runs the Kingsway Adventure Centre, in Middleton-in-Teesdale, was among those campaigning to save the complex.
He said its closure was a major blow to the village, but there was nothing more that could be done to try to keep the centre open.
“It's going to be a loss in terms of employment and also income for the local shops as all the children who have come would go and do their shopping and buy their souvenirs locally.
“It is also a huge loss to the children who will not not get the benefit of coming to Middleton-in-Teesdale.”
Mr Hearn added: “The council view is that there are commercial providers – such as myself – but none of those are going to be able to offer the same sort of courses on a profit basis for the same price.
“I think what will happen is those who can afford to go away will do so, those who can't will not be able to go – or they will get a lesser experience, perhaps staying three days instead of five.”