Forest of Dean Wilderness Centre appeal target reached

Tony Gosling tony at
Tue Apr 17 01:57:21 BST 2012

Forest of Dean Wilderness Centre bid ready
30 March 2012 Last updated at 06:28
The Wilderness Centre was closed by the county council last August.
Campaigners wanting to save a disused 
environmental education centre in the Forest of 
Dean say they are in a position to make a bid to buy it.
Gloucestershire County Council closed the 
Wilderness Centre at Mitcheldean last August because of budget cuts.
Friends of the Wilderness said it has raised 
enough finance to persuade the council to sell it to them.
It will present a bid, which includes pledges of 
"hundreds of thousands of pounds", at Shire Hall later.
Spokesman for Friends of the Wilderness, Trevor 
Roach, said: "I'm optimistic we can come to an 
agreement that satisfies the county's needs to 
draw in funds to meet its budget challenge, but 
at the same time is at a price that we can afford 
and leaves us with a bit of capital to reinvest 
in refurbishing the basics of the centre."
'Peppercorn rent'
The county council had given the group "the sole 
option to place a bid" by the end of this month 
if it could raise sufficient funds.
Two local businessmen - John Thurston, chairman 
of Watts Group, and Brian Bennett, chairman of 
Vantage Point business village - are understood 
to have pledged "six-figure sums" to the campaign group.
A further £14,000 has been raised through donations from members of the public.
Mr Roach said if the bid is successful the centre 
would be owned by Mr Thurston and Mr Bennett and 
be leased for a "peppercorn rent" to a new company that would run it.
Educational work at the centre would be set up as 
a Community Interest Company (CIC), he said.
The site is currently occupied by members of 
another campaign group, Protect the Wilderness, 
who say they want to keep the centre open to the public.
+44 (0)7786 952037
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