Published: 14:33, 26 October 2020
| Updated: 14:38, 26 October 2020
A much-loved community centre will close permanently amid the coronavirus crisis.
Phoenix House in Sittingbourne’s Central Avenue shut its doors in March to help in the battle against the disease.
But, last week, trustees of Swale Community Centres (SCC), the charitable company set up to manage Phoenix House, said they had, with “great regret”, decided not to reopen the centre.
“There are two main reasons for this decision. First, the building requires considerable investment in the heating system and windows to make it usable through the winter,” they said.
“During the last two winters, Phoenix House has been cold, uncomfortable and some groups had to cancel their meetings. The age and general condition of the building mean neither SCC nor their landlords, Kent County Council, could justify spending in excess of £100,000 to fix the immediate problems. It is very likely much more will need to be spent in the future, these resources would be better being directed to other facilities.
“The second problem is the Covid-19 pandemic. Several groups have indicated that they wish to resume meeting, but many are understandably reluctant to return while conditions are so uncertain. In addition, Covid restrictions on numbers and cleaning mean it would be financially unsustainable to operate Phoenix House with the anticipated numbers.”
Phoenix House, which was officially opened in 1991, was a popular meeting place for community groups. Prior to its closure in March, almost 90 groups used it, some weekly or monthly and others only occasionally, bringing more than 6,000 visitors per month.
It was founded by volunteers and businesses in collaboration with Swale council and KCC.
The trustees added: “We believe there is a real need for a community centre in the heart of Sittingbourne and it is our hope that in the, not-too-distant, future we can build a new centre, with the help of key partners and interested parties.”