Campaigners wait to learn fate of Freefield Centre

Pensioners will head to the town hall on Wednesday for a special council meeting to hear the final decision on Lerwick’s Freefield Centre, due for closure on 31st May.

The council has been recommending closure of the centre, which provides cheap lunches for older people, since last year, and is seeking approval for this.

Closure would save the council £80,000 per year but the recommendation has met stiff resistance from the centre’s users.

Freefield campaigner Doreen Williamson said: “It will be a very sad day if it closes. We’ve done our best to fight it.”

Click to enlarge
Facing closure: The Freefield Centre.

None of the lunch club users has any idea what will happen now, she said. Alternative venues, including Islesburgh, had been mooted but no definite arrangements have been made.

The voluntary sector showed interest in taking the lunch club over. Various proposals have been considered, but the limitations of the building make this impracticable.

Voluntary Action Shetland wanted to take over the lease and use the building for their carers’ support service, and day services as well as continuing the lunch club.

WRVS wanted to develop a cafe and run the lunch club, the British Red Cross wanted to use the building for a training venue and have the basement for storage and the New Life Church wanted to run a cafe and convert the basement into a “skills centre”. Social enterprise COPE wanted to renovate the building with a kitchen suitable for their catering business as well as continuing the lunch club, and the Moving On Employment Project offered support with maintenance and cleaning of the building.

However the council explored these options with the groups and found the basement was not suitable for either use or storage.

Installing a catering kitchen on the ground floor would take up too much space. Additionally the building needs work costing more than £70,000 to bring it up to standard.

The pensioners do not want to move from the location and do not want to lose their existing staff. They offered to increase the cost of their meals from £3.50 to £5 and to shut on Saturdays, operating on weekdays only, but this would not yield enough to cover maintenance, upgrading and cost of staff.

Spending on Freefield, the council said, would breach its medium term financial plan. In any case it is a “discretionary” service, not available in other parts of Shetland. However people with “assessed needs” will still be catered for in some way.

For a full report on Wednesday’s meeting, see this week’s Shetland Times.


Add Your Comment
  • ivan coghill

    • April 15th, 2013 15:01

    The pensioners should stop moaning. They can all go to Hays Dock Cafe. What is the problem?

  • T Goodlad

    • April 15th, 2013 18:29

    Considering the support our local bars & clubs got last week from our local councilors,when Sodexo was granted a licence to sell drink onboard the accommadation barge I would not hold out much chance of Freefield Centre getting a reprieve.

    Even the taxis might have picked up the odd fare & it would all have helped our local economy.

  • stephen shirmer

    • April 15th, 2013 20:06

    Well said Mr Coghill, folk have got used to having evrything on a plate, the slightest change or cut back and you would think the world is coming to an end,start looking outwidth, 6 million unemployed folk in Spain for example.

  • george williamson

    • April 17th, 2013 22:50

    In any case it is a “discretionary” service, not available in other parts of Shetland. However people with “assessed needs” will still be catered for in some way.

    and mareel is not?


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