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Age UK Perform U-Turn & Will Remain At The Cherry Tree Centre

9th January 2018
By Peter Chapman

Activities for older people will remain at the Cherry Tree Centre on Fairfield Road, Burgess Hill after Age UK West Sussex performed a surprising u-turn it has been announced.

Late in 2017, the charity gave notice to Mid Sussex District Council that they would be surrendering their lease at the end of March 2018 and take their activities out into the community - at locations yet to be identified - as they claimed they couldn't justify continuing at the Cherry Tree Centre which was too expensive and had just 120 members on their books.

In light of the announcement made by Age UK West Sussex last year, a group of community-minded residents got together under the banner of 'The Young At Heart Community Partnership' with the aim of not just taking over the running of adult activities at the Cherry Tree Centre, but to increase the offer and grow the membership.

To help in their endevours, Burgess Hill Town Council had pledged support with funding for the first year to cover the rent on the centre. Then in 2019 when Age UK's £105k service funding would be up for renewal from MSDC and West Sussex County Council, the Young at Heart Community Partnership would bid for that very funding.

Over this past weekend, the Young At Heart Community Partnership announced on their Facebook Group that Age UK West Sussex would now be remaining at the Cherry Tree Centre and that they'd found a partner.

This partner is Heights Gym and Health Club - soon to be homeless from the Martlets Shopping Centre due to the impending redevelopment.

What is strange is that Heights had initially contacted the Young at Heart Community Partnership, with interest to rent the facility out of hours to run various classes. The thought being that the added income could help Young at Heart make their takeover financially viable.

Some where along the line, Heights got into dialogue with Age UK West Sussex and thus the new partnership has been formed. The announcement comes as a surprise as Age UK West Sussex made a big point of how they needed to get out of the centre so that they could reach a significantly greater number of people by operating from different venues. Is this really all just about money?

A spokesperson from Mid Sussex District Council has said:
“Mid Sussex District Council is pleased that Age UK will continue to provide valuable services for older people at the Cherry Tree Centre in Burgess Hill.

“We have worked intensely to encourage the various parties to work together to make best use of the Cherry Tree Centre and we welcome any initiatives that will expand services across Burgess Hill and the surrounding villages.”

Age UK West Sussex previously secured their funding based on operating 5 days a week and to provide transport for the users. The Cherry Tree centre is now only open 4 days a week and service users have to organise and pay for their own transport via Bluebird after the charity withdrew their own minibus service. Age UK West Sussex still receive the same level of yearly funding.

The Young at Heart Community Partnership are fearful of what the terms of use will be with regards to Heights Health Club using the facility and if it will affect the elderly people's use of the centre during daytime hours.

Unfortunately we can't find out anything from Age UK West Sussex as they have ignored our requests for information dating back to last year.

To keep up to date with developments over this issue, head on over to The Young At Heart Community Partnership's Facebook Group

Spread the word, Age UK West Sussex have performed a dramatic u-turn, but is it in the service users best interests?

Got an opinion on this story? Leave a comment below.....
What do you think of Age Uk West Sussex' dramatic U-turn? How will a partnership with local health club work at the centre?

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