Exclusive: Farm and five community centres in line for the axe as Luton Airport cuts back donations

Dell Farm, Whipsnade

Dell Farm, Whipsnade

1
Have your say

A children’s farm and five community centres are set to be axed as Luton Airport slashes back on its charitable donations to the town.

Over the next two years London Luton Airport Ltd is planning to cut its donations to Luton Culture by £1m and to Active Luton by £500,000– putting the future of a number of community facilities in jeopardy.

Park Town Community Centre is one of the bases under threat

Park Town Community Centre is one of the bases under threat

In line for the chop is Dell Farm, as well as community centres in Bushmead, Limbury, Raynham Way, Park Town and at Futures House in Marsh Farm.

The move has been orchestrated by Luton Borough Council, which runs LLAL, and is set to be discussed in finer detail at a meeting of LBC’s executive on Monday.

Luton Culture has already given the council notice that it intends to terminate the leases on the community centres, to hand back control to LBC on July 31.

In a report on the situation the council’s head of community living, Mike McMahon, says that LBC “does not have the money to continue to run these buildings once control of them is returned” and that officers will need to look at “alternative running models”.

Dell Farm, Whipsnade

Dell Farm, Whipsnade

LBC is set to open a consultation on the future of the centres “with a view to closure if alternative models of operation cannot be agreed.”

The fate of a sixth community centre in Farley is also in doubt, as Luton Culture has asked LBC to search for an alternative operator over the next two years.

On the decision LBC’s portfolio holder for people and places, Cllr Jacqui Burnett, said: ““I am disappointed by Luton Culture’s decision to terminate its leases on these community centres, but I also understand that the cultural trust, like the council itself, is experiencing unprecedented budget cuts for which this government is ultimately responsible.”

Cllr Burnett added: “Without the money to run these centres as a council, we urgently need to speak to the local community, and in particular those who make use of these centres, about alternative running models that could keep these centres open.

“We’ll be consulting with residents across the town over the next couple of weeks to gather ideas and expressions of interest to see how can we achieve that.

“There is a very real risk that some or all of these centres could close, which is why we need to work together as a community to come up with

creative solutions for keeping them open.”

A report on the potential closure of Dell Farm indicates that Active Luton will continue to run the Whipsnade facility until August, when it will be returned to council.

As well as having a range of farmyard animals the facility offers outdoor adventure experiences for schoolchildren.

However its usage is said to be in “steady decline” due to competition from “larger outward bound centres that have more to offer”.

According to the report its financial position is also bleak– as it is around £90,000 behind budget and is set to make a ‘significant loss’ over the year.

As well as operating costs it also has a £19,000 annual maintenance bill and over the next five years larger repairs will cost £67,000.

Ten members of staff would be affected by its closure.