A ROW has erupted over the allocation of cash for a new £900,000 community resource centre in Accrington.
The scheme to breathe new life into the former St James' School in Cannon Street has been given the green light after the council bought the building for £120,000. But Joan Pilkington, secretary of West Accrington Residents' Association, claims £500,000 earmarked for a community centre in her area has been pumped into it.
She said: "That was our money and it's been used for another project. We feel like we've been abandoned." She spoke out during a meeting of Accrington Town Centre Regeneration Board after Nigel Rix, director of Hyndburn FIRST, said the resource centre for use by voluntary groups should be up and running by next summer.
He claimed several voluntary sector groups had been consulted, but Mrs Pilkington said these did not include the Hyndburn Community Em-powerment Network, which she helped set up.
She added: "The scheme is going to cost around £1m and we feel it should have been spent across the whole of the Single Regeneration Budget (SRB) area. The Blackburn Road area is being neglected. Not a blade of grass has been touched in Central or Barnfield wards. Blackburn Road has been the focus of so many bids but nothing ever gets done. The area has been abandoned. The value of our houses has dropped by 13 per cent. We all feel frustrated and very annoyed."
The resource centre is being funded through the SRB and European Regional Deve-lopment Fund cash. It will include a kitchen, offices, a community hall, meeting rooms and computer facilities.
Mr Rix told Mrs Pilkington her area was going to benefit from the Elevate scheme and Project Phoenix, adding: "The Primary Care Trust is also looking at building a new health centre in Blackburn Road."
- People power is set to be an important aspect of the development and running of the resource centre. Ian Marfleet, Hyndburn FIRST's project development officer, told a press conference on Tuesday: "Although Hyndburn Council owns the building, residents and volunteers will be responsible for the management of it."
He said the centre would be run by a management committee, set up as a charity, with the building leased to it. The council would have a seat on the committee but it would be up to members of the public to manage the building.
Geoff Coglan, chairman of the management committee, said: "It has long been a dream of many in the community to have a building where community groups and voluntary groups can operate together in the heart of the borough."
Councillor Peter Clarke, Cabinet portfolio holder for town centre management, said voluntary groups using the centre would have to pay towards the upkeep of the building. But he added: "It will probably be less than they are paying at the moment. It's all under one roof and for the community to use."