Outdoor pursuits centre in battle to survive sale plan

9th January 1998 at 00:00
An outdoor education centre that has served generations of Manchester children is fighting for its life.

More than 1,000 children a year go on courses at the imposing Ghyllhead Centre. A Victorian building on the banks of Lake Windermere, it is ideally placed for walking, climbing and watersports.

Manchester City Council is proposing to sell the site for Pounds 1 million, with Pounds 400,000 going to fund a new residential facility at Debdale Park, Reddish, in the south-east of the city.

Opponents of the proposal are preparing to do battle to save Ghyllhead and enable today's youngsters to follow in the footsteps of their parents and grandparents. They believe the new centre cannot match the challenging outdoor experience of Ghyllhead.

John Whatmore, chair of the Friends of Ghyllhead Group, said: "We don't see why councillors cannot see the importance of this quality experience for inner-city kids. How can they even be considering selling off something which is so important as a life-changing event for children?" Such criticisms are dismissed by Mark Hackett, chair of the city's education committee, as "Victorian romanticism". He does not accept that "only by going to the Lake District can children get these experiences".

The council says Debdale will offer similar water pursuits and children will be able to use the nearby Peak District for walking, climbing and pot holing. Debdale is nearer to Manchester and will cater for twice as many children.

Mr Hackett also says that Ghyllhead should have become self-financing, but is on course for an overspend of Pounds 120,000 this year.

The council stresses that Ghyllhead is well run and offers good quality provision, but says that Debdale will offer a comprehensive range of outdoors activities that will complement what is already on offer in Manchester. It will also bring jobs to the city.

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