A CENTRE which has been at the heart of the community for more than 50 years has been saved at the 11th hour.

Coast & Vale Community Action (CaVCA), with additional support from Ryedale District Council (RDC) has stepped in to take over the Hungate Centre in Pickering and ensure it continues as a community venue for the future.

Ownership of the Hungate Centre will be fully transferred to CaVCA, who will set up a charitable trust and run the venue on a not-for-profit basis.

The Hungate Centre was built in the 1960s using funds raised by the community, and since that time has been used by local and voluntary organisations for a wide range of activities, many aimed at helping elderly people.

To meet charity law requirements, the legal ownership of the building was given to the Women’s Royal Voluntary Association (now the RVS) who also managed and maintained the venue. However, last year the RVS told community groups that they could no longer cover their costs, and the building would be put up for sale on the open market unless a community bid came forward.

Despite vigorous community campaigning led by local not-for-profit organisation Musical Memories CIC, a petition of more than 1,000 signatures, direct communication with RVS from the High Sheriff of North Yorkshire, David Kerfoot, and a plea from RDC to halt the sale, it had seemed likely that the centre would be sold.

However, after weeks of negotiation, CaVCA has announced it has agreed a deal with the RVS that will save the centre and ensure it continues as a community venue for the future.

CaVCA’s chief executive officer Mel Bonney said: “We are absolutely delighted to have been able to secure the future of the Hungate Centre for the people of Pickering, and the community organisations who have campaigned for it so passionately.

Mel added: “Our mission at CaVCA is to help local people to take action on the things that are important to them, and it was very clear that the community in Pickering wanted this much-loved Centre to remain in community use.
“Once it became apparent that the building was actually held on Trust by RVS for the people of Pickering it was clear there was a role for us. We have negotiated with the RVS that we will take on the building and associated Trust for the benefit of the local community. The agreement is in place and we will be finalising the legal transfer over the coming weeks.
“Taking on the Hungate Centre is a significant financial investment for us, but it fits completely with our charitable mission. We are very much looking forward to working with local groups to make the Hungate Centre a vibrant and successful community facility for many years to come.”
RDC is to  provide CaVCA with a grant of up to £25k to do essential repairs to the building.
Phillip Spurr, Programme Director for Economic Development, Business and Partnerships at RDC, said: “The Council has strongly supported the drive to keep the Hungate Centre as a community facility, so we have been linking closely with CaVCA during their negotiations and exploring what the Council could do to help.
“We identified that the Hungate Centre needed some costly repairs to bring the building back up to standard when it reopens, and make sure it is in good shape to welcome community groups back when that time comes.”
Ruth and Neil Hannah, who run Musical Memories CIC, said: “Thank you to every single organisation, group and individual who supported this long and sometimes bitter campaign. Whatever you did was needed and whatever you did made a difference.
“The Hungate Centre has an exciting future ahead of it at the heart of this community and we know it will be safe in the custodianship of CaVCA who have supported our campaign to save it from day one.”
CaVCA provides support to local people to take action on matters of importance to them. It also manages a number of community facilities and managed workspace across the area. 
For further information, visit www.cavca.org.uk