Last orders for popular Whittle-le-Woods parish centre after church carries out review

A once popular church club will not reopen after being closed for the last year due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Wednesday, 31st March 2021, 7:00 am
St Chad's Parish Centre
St Chad's Parish Centre

St Chad's Parish Centre in Whittle-le-Woods was a regular venue for the likes of weddings, christenings and birthday party celebrations.

Members also enjoyed a pint and a game of snooker at the club on Town Lane down the years.

However, bowling teams who use the green can carry on and the church says the centre will still be open for parish activities and for hire by community groups.

The church says there are no plans to sell the premises or site.

Centre manager and steward Susan Darbyshire has been left saddened by the closure.

Susan, 63, who ran the club for 14 years said: "That was my life."

She said she received an email from the church last Wednesday revealing its closure plans if no proposals to revive the club could be found.

"My contract was terminated last Wednesday," said Susan, who lives in Wheelton.

"It's because of Covid, it's affected a lot of businesses I think with it being closed for a year . . .

"We relied on functions."

Susan said she had 'turned the club around' making it a popular venue for both members and visitors. She said she did 'everything' even the gardening.

"It's so sad," she said. "That was my life that club."

The closure was so upsetting for her, she said one of the artist's who used the club painted her a picture of it and wanted to arrange for her to go back and be presented with it, but she could not bring herself to return to the premises.

"It will be missed by everyone," said Susan. "I think I had about 130 messages on Facebook saying what a lovely job I'd done."

Susan has been offered a part-time job and another job as a steward, but she said: "It's too early days to consider anything at the moment."

Father Mark Beattie, Parish Priest, revealed the news in the church newsletter on Sunday.

He said: "This week we received the following sad news from the Archdiocesan Clubs Department.

“The coronavirus pandemic and government restrictions meant that St Chad’s Parish Centre had to close in March 2020.

"At that point we didn’t know how long the restrictions would last, but as the restrictions continued, the parish centre has suffered a year’s loss of trading income and the unavoidable fixed costs of the parish centre have compounded this loss.

"Unfortunately, the impact of the current pandemic has also had a financial impact on the financial position of the Archdiocese as a whole, with an estimated financial loss of £6.8 million for the year ending December 2020.

"In the light of this, it became necessary to undertake a review of the viability of continuing to trade in the parish centre going forward.

"The review considered a broad range of factors including financial performance, reliance on functions, projected future trading conditions and the estimated cost of any capital investment required to maintain the parish centre going forward.

"We highly value the contribution that the parish centre makes to the life of the parish and the community we serve.

"Unfortunately, we do not believe that we are in a position currently to respond to the crisis in a way that can overcome the detailed impact on levels of trade and subsequent unavoidable fixed cost in the Parish Centre in a way that will ensure viability.

"As a result, the outcome of the assessment for this parish centre is that continuing to trade is no longer viable and having considered all the factors mentioned, the APCMC Board and Archdiocesan Board of Trustees has taken the difficult decision to discontinue trading and close the parish centre by the end of March 2021.

”Our parish centre building belongs to our parish will continue to be run as a venue for parish activities, and once coronavirus restrictions have been lifted, it will be available for hire by groups for regular or occasional events.

"There are no plans to sell the building or the site.

"The bowling teams using the green will be able to continue to use the facilities of the centre for the foreseeable future.

"The parish of St Chad is liable for any debts that the building incurs, either, as formerly, a licensed parish centre or, as now, a parish hall.

"We very much hope that our parishioners and the wider local community will support us in keeping it going for many years to come.

"When it is possible for us to hold meetings again we will have a gathering to discuss ideas for our parish centre and how it can continue to be a valuable resource in our parish and to the wider community.

"Later in the year it would be good to set up a committee of volunteers to help to look after the building and the groups using it.

"This sad news marks the end of 14 years of outstanding work by Sue, our parish centre manager.

"Her kindness, hard work and dedication to St Chad’s has been greatly appreciated by everyone who has used the centre.

"We owe her a great debt of gratitude for her service to our community and wish her all the best for the future."