Council to consider future of Friendship House
The Cabinet is due to consider a number of options regarding the future of community centre, Friendship House.
The council currently leases the property to the trustees of Hatfield and District Age Concern at a rent of £130 per annum. Sadly, despite the various grant schemes offering cash support to local community and voluntary groups impacted by the pandemic, the charity has decided that continuing operations is not viable and they are in discussions with the council regarding the surrender of the lease.
Friendship House is in excess of 50 years old and despite the best efforts of Hatfield and District Age Concern, without major investment, it is nearing the end of its life. Under the terms of the existing lease the charity would be responsible for rebuilding the property but this is unlikely to be financially viable for them.
The closure of the centre therefore presents an opportunity to ensure that all potential options for the site are carefully considered to ensure the best and most sustainable solution for the needs of the local community is secured. These options include the demolition of the existing, aged, building and redevelopment of the site which could include a modern community facility better able to serve the needs of local residents.
The council shares the concerns about the impact of the closure of Friendship House and is very happy to help refer users to the lunch and social club at The Hive. Whilst this is operated by the charity Jimmy Macs, independent from the council, both work closely together and are positive that, given the closure, the team would do everything possible to provide the warmest welcome to new visitors once coronavirus restrictions are lifted and they open again.
Cllr Duncan Bell, Deputy Leader of the Council and Executive Member, Resources, said:
We are very sad that the trustees of Hatfield and District Age Concern have made this difficult decision. We know how important and valued Friendship House is by some of our most vulnerable residents.
Once the building is returned to the council, we will be better placed to consider the best use of the site for the future. Our overriding objective is to ensure that we provide a sustainable solution that best serves the needs of the borough as a whole.
A full report on the various options for the centre, will be presented to Cabinet in Summer 2021 and there will also be an opportunity for residents to share their views.