Manhood Peninsula learning centre under threat

Users of a popular education centre in the Manhood Peninsula which provides residential courses for adults across the country say they are shocked and disappointed about possible plans to close at the end of this year.

The trustees of Earnley Concourse, which employs around 41 people, issued a statement in August which said that as a consequence of the economic downturn, which had resulted in reduced occupancy levels, they were reviewing current operating activities.

They said that in light of the review, it was likely it would be necessary to suspend operations. A process of consultation had started to see if there was any way a closure could be avoided or mitigated.

The trustees said if this was not possible, then the centre would close on December 19 while they considered future options for the trust.

Supporters said its closure would have a ‘detrimental’ impact on the wellbeing of students as well as a severe effect on the economy of the surrounding villages.

Sarah Backhouse, who has lived in the area for 30 years and has attended many courses, said the centre should be promoted more.

“So many of us around here are really upset that there is a possibility it’s going to close and it would be dreadful for the local community – and beyond. People just love going there.

“If there is a terrible financial crisis, why hasn’t the trust been more open about it? There are a lot of wealthy people in this area and there is a lot of goodwill; they should be tapping into that.

“The trust has been so, lacklustre about it, that is what is so frustrating.”

The centre is highly regarded by both students and tutors alike. Around 5,000 people attend courses, and people come from as far away as Scotland to do courses in a range of subjects including music and the arts.

Many of the people who attend the courses are in the later years of life, and those involved with the centre said many people attended courses on a regular basis and that the closure would be a great loss to them.

As well as learning new skills and keeping their minds and bodies active, those who attend meet new people and form friendships.

Rosamund Champ, who has attended courses there, said people were very upset about its possible demise.

“I shall miss it terribly. I heard about the possible closure from a friend of mine. It is a terrible thing to happen. People get so many different things from Earnley Concourse and it also provides employment in the community.”

Supporters of the centre have written letters to Chichester MP Andrew Tyrie as well as the chairman of Chichester District Council, the Bishop of Chichester and the chairman of West Sussex County Council as well as the trust itself.

Trustee Dr Ian McAndrew said: “At the moment we are in discussions and looking at all possible options to see if we can stay open and how we can operate. At this stage I can’t say any more than that.

“Trustees are working with the staff and representatives: we have had four meetings and are looking to explore every possible option.

“We are in an economic downturn and as with most companies it is difficult in business at the moment.”