Children’s building given stay of execution

Plans to close Ponteland Children’s Centre in the near future have been shelved.

Northumberland County Council has agreed to postpone changes to the role of the building on Thornhill Road ‘for up to a year’.

Following a public consultation, officers felt that there were some further opportunities to explore to provide services on a more commercial basis and find new ways to use the children’s centre building to support families with young children.

A recent review of children’s centres found that five out of the 20 buildings known as Sure Start in the county were being ‘under utilised’ and new ways of delivering services were required given the need for the authority to make big savings in the next two years.

Ponteland was among them, but a campaign was soon launched to save it from being closed and given an alternative use for a school or organisation.

The council’s proposal was to run children’s centre services in places such as the library, St Mary’s Church Hall and the Memorial Hall and the parents, grandparents and carers who take children to the building on Thornhill Road were concerned that these venues would not be suitable and people would miss out on services from professionals based at the centre.

Robert Arckless, policy board member for children’s services at Northumberland County Council, said: “Regrettably, the council has to make some very substantial savings over the next few years and so we have had to look at new ways of delivering services.

“In Ponteland, there has been a greater level of community concern about ceasing to use the Sure Start building as a designated children’s centre.

“After speaking with families, it has been agreed to defer changing the status of the building for up to 12 months to allow time to develop and establish new ways of delivering children’s services in the community.”