Popley Spotlight Centre dogged by new school rumours

Michaela Riley

Michaela Riley Buy this photo

First published in Basingstoke Andover Advertiser: Photograph of the Author by , Chief Reporter

A CENTRE which offers affordable activities for the community is reassuring users that it will not be forced out by a new school until at least 2014.

The Popley Spotlight Centre opened at the former Chineham Park Primary School which was shut down by Hampshire County Council in 2010 after being graded as “inadequate” by Ofsted.

Charity Spotlight UK moved into the building, in Shakespeare Road, Popley, and it now has more than 750 people attending its classes and clubs each week.

But those running the centre have been blighted by rumours about its future.

Michaela Riley, who founded the charity, said: “This has been the most difficult time in our history with all the uncertainty surrounding the possible closure of our site.

“This has made running and planning for our charity extremely hard. We are in difficulties anyway without all this on top. It has compounded the pressure and has had a huge effect on all who care about the charity, from our fantastic staff and volunteers through to our customers, friends and supporters.”

The Gazette ran an article in April this year, revealing that a report prepared for the county council showed that 420 school places are needed in the Popley area, and that if pupil numbers justify it, the former school could reopen.

A statement was sent out to users of the centre to say the charity is aware that the centre will eventually return to a school, but it has developed an “exit strategy” to identify alternative accommodation.

It said the charity has been told by the county council that the earliest it will consider bringing the building back into use as a school is 2014 and that the charity will be given at least 12 months’ notice before it has to move out.

It added: “While all options are still being considered for the longer term future of the site, Spotlight UK remains dedicated to providing a wide range of services to the local community.”

The charity is now appealing for ideas about possible buildings, sites and community centres with surplus capacity to run a joint venture with Spotlight or offer long-term rental agreements.

Councillor Roy Perry, Hampshire County Council’s executive lead member for children’s services, said Spotlight will be given “as much notice as possible” if the building is brought back into use as a school.

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