An award-winning environment centre in Ashford, which set new standards in green design and construction when it opened 10 years ago, has a bright future thanks to an agreement between Ashford Borough Council and Great Chart with Singleton Parish Council which will safeguard the Kent centre’s future and ensure it continues to thrive.
Ashford Borough Council has granted a lease to the parish council who will form a trust to run the Singleton Environment Centre, which is an award-winning example of sustainable building. Constructed using local and recycled materials, it harnesses biodiversity, sustainable energy production and methods of recycling water. Old shipping containers and tree trunks were used as part of the construction.
Since it opened in 2008 the centre has become a focal point for the local community providing a hub for volunteering, a broad range of community events such as health walks and woodland task days and Footprints café which offers local and seasonal produce.
The British Trust for Conversation Volunteers (now TCV) had been leasing the centre from the council but in January 2017 they gave notice of their intention to terminate their lease on 10 March 2018. Since then the council has been looking for a new operator and is now in a position to work with the parish council who wish to see it remain a community facility with an environmental focus. They are extremely keen to develop a range of family and community focused activities as well as developing its commercial use.
The current centre manager will transfer across and both existing tenants, Footprints Café and Soothing Pod, have indicated a desire to remain, so for the many regular users and visitors to the centre it will be business as usual.
Cllr Mike Bennett, portfolio holder for culture, leisure, environment and heritage, said: “Since we received formal notice from TCV that they would be leaving the Singleton Environment Centre we have been in discussions with various parties over future operating arrangements. We’re pleased to be able to work with Great Chart with Singleton Parish Council to safeguard the centre’s future as a much loved and well-used community resource.”
Great Chart with Singleton Parish Council said: “We are delighted with the cabinet’s decision and looks forward to running the Singleton Environment Centre which will continue to provide services and activities for the community. We are looking to set up a Trust to run the centre and would love to hear from potential trustees.”