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Marle Hall to be axed by Warwickshire County Council

A CAMPAIGN to save the outdoor learning centre Marle Hall has failed with the news that the facility is to close in October.

The venue in north Wales has provided a range of activities for children from Warwickshire over the past 50 years, but in 2020 the county council revealed shock plans to close it.

The proposal prompted a 7,000-signature petition, which was presented to the authority earlier this year, but the site’s fate was formally decided at a recent cabinet meeting, with the doors set to shut for good on 22nd October.

The council says Marle Hall has been consistently underused for the past seven years and the cost of running the centre had not been met by the income generated.

The authority added it would lose £850,000 running the site over the next ten years and there were around 50 other providers within a similar radius where schools could arrange trips.

Cllr Jeff Morgan, portfolio holder for children, families and education, said: “We know that many people will be saddened to hear this news, perhaps because they have fond memories of their own experiences at Marle Hall or believe strongly in the role of outdoor education for children.

“I want to reassure them that we do too, and this decision does not change our commitment to outdoor education at all.

“However, we have a responsibility to make sure we are spending public money wisely and so sometimes have difficult choices to make. Schools are free to choose any provider they like and the council is under no legal duty to offer an outdoor facility of our own to schools.

“The Grade II-listed building needs a huge amount of work to bring it up to the standard that visitors expect, to be fully accessible by those with physical disabilities and to be able to operate more efficiently. So reluctantly I’m afraid we must be led by our heads and not our hearts.”

A spokesperson said a decision on the future of the building would be made later this year.

Liz Coles, business manager at one Warwickshire school, said: “This is such a shame for children. Trips to Marle Hall are not just a jolly holiday, they are a life-changing experience. This really breaks my heart and it’s so sad that children appear to be bearing the brunt of these cuts. It’s been there such a long time – many of Warwickshire’s parents will have happy memories of visiting.”

Stratford parent Steve Groves added: “My children have been there. It’s a great place for youngsters to build confidence on their first trip away from home. It is such a shame that it’s being taken away from us – it’s a cop-out from the council. When it goes, we’ll never get it back.”

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