Council surprised by local support for training centre

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Calderdale Council has acted quickly to reassure users of the heath training and development centre in Halifax that no hasty decisions will be taken about its future.

The council has been taken aback by the strength of feeling from users of the highly-regarded centre which the council wishes to sell.

Apart from its use as an educational training resource it is also used by many leisure groups such as fives – a form of real tennis – the nearest alternative centre being at Giggleswick School in the Yorkshire Dales.

The centre, in Free School Lane is used by more than 63 groups for activities including meetings, music classes and sport.

Accounts supplied by the Charity Commission from 2009 suggest it could be worth as much as £4.9m.

The buildings and land, which used to house Heath Grammar School, are owned by the Heath Charity which has Calderdale Council as its only trustee.

Council leader Janet Battye said: “Cabinet recognised that there were possible legal issues surrounding the Heath site, and it is now clear that these are indeed extensive and will take many months to clear up.

“The discussion about the future of Heath is not linked to the future of Halifax central library, nor do plans for the new library depend on the sale of Heath to go ahead.

“Even if the building is eventually disposed of, any funds raised would need to be used in a way that is consistent with the aims of the trust.”

Lead member for children’s services Councillor Megan Swift added: “For the first time for 12 years we want to make sure that the Heath trust is properly and separately administered, so there is complete transparency and separation between the charity and the council. This will include investigating whether it is possible to appoint an independent trustee for heath.

“And as part of this process there will be discussions on all possible uses of Heath with a view to establishing whether the trust is viable and whether it makes sense for the council to continue to use it for office space, training and other purposes.” It has been claimed that Heath was being sold to raise funds for a controversial new library in the town centre but a council spokesman denied this.