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‘Old and beyond usable lifespan’ Stibbington Centre to close

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An outdoor centre is to close after Cambridgeshire County Council was told it was “old and beyond its usable lifespan”.

The council’s children and young people’s committee was told that “that significant investment would be needed at the Stibbington Centre to ensure it remained safe and viable for visiting school parties”.

The council says that by closing Stibbington near Peterborough it will release cash to invest in the two remaining outdoor centres, Grafham Water and Burwell House.

Fewer than half the bookings at Stibbington outdoor centre come from schools and academies within Cambridgeshire – the majority are from outside the county.

A council spokesperson said many of the buildings at Stibbington “are old and beyond their usable lifespan and would require significant investment to bring them up to required standards.

“Its inefficient buildings also mean that the site does not contribute positively to the council’s ambitions for tackling climate change.”

The spokesperson said: “Local authorities do not have a statutory duty to provide outdoor education, although Cambridgeshire recognises the role played by the Stibbington Centre in promoting the wellbeing and experiences of the young people using its facilities.”

The spokesperson also pointed out that fewer than half its bookings come from schools and academies within Cambridgeshire – the majority are from outside the county.

All Cambridgeshire’s outdoor centres were closed during the pandemic between March 2020 and May 2021.

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“Both Grafham Water Centre and Burwell House have recovered well, with an increase in enquiries and bookings, but at the Stibbington Centre there remains a significant overspend which is forecast to increase,” said the spokesperson.

The committee heard that many neighbouring authorities – and several further afield – had either closed or were considering the closures of unviable outdoor centres.

“Even with the loss of the Stibbington Centre, Cambridgeshire County Council would still directly own and operate more outdoor education centres than its neighbours, demonstrating its ongoing commitment and promotion of the skills and experiences provided,” said the spokesperson.

“It is anticipated that Grafham Water Centre and Burwell House will be able to offer many of the experiences at the Stibbington Centre after it closes.”

Cllr Bryony Goodliffe, chair of the children and young people’s committee said: “This has been a difficult decision to make.

“But several factors make closure the best option.

“Stibbington’s buildings are old, expensive to maintain and not in tune with the council’s green agenda.”

She said the money realised from the sale will be invested directly into the council’s other outdoor centres at Grafham Water and Burwell “where we are confident young people will be able to benefit from the continued provision of exciting and varied outdoor experiences”.

 

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