Body blow for Burnley neighbourhood as popular community centre closes down

Burnley Wood Centre manager Karen Heseltine (back) with trustee Russ Neal and Sasha Smith and her daughter Daisy Hindle (three) taken earlier this year at the weekly playgroup.
Burnley Wood Centre manager Karen Heseltine (back) with trustee Russ Neal and Sasha Smith and her daughter Daisy Hindle (three) taken earlier this year at the weekly playgroup.

A community centre, that has been at the heart of a Burnley neighbourhood for almost nine years, is to close down at the end of September.

The closure of Burnley Wood Community Centre will be a body blow for the many families and groups that use it.

It will be the end of the era when Burnley Wood Communithy Centre closes its doors later this month.

It will be the end of the era when Burnley Wood Communithy Centre closes its doors later this month.

But centre manager Karen Heseltine, who has been at the helm since its launch, said it was was not a decision she had taken lightly and she was stepping down due to health reasons.

She said: "This has been one of the most difficult decisions of my life, it really has been heart wrenching.

"But there has come a point in my life when I have to consider my health which has been suffering.

"It is the end of an era but I feel that the centre is a legacy to be passed on and I hope that someone will come along to take it over and keep the facility going."

Karen added that sourcing funding was becoming increasingly tougher and this was another factor in her decision to close the centre.

In the past eight-and-a-half years Karen has brought in a staggering £200,000 worth of funding and donations for the centre which has helped to transform the building into a thriving facility with a fully equipped kitchen, state of the art IT suite, sensory room and new windows and doors.

With a band of volunteers and helpers the centre has run discos, knit and natter sessions, playgroups and a regular lunch club hosted and run by Karen's mum and volunteer, Margaret Unsworth. She will be hosting an early Christmas lunch for members later this month before the centre closes.

Karen added: "All of this has been achieved by the volunteers who have given their time to this centre.

"People used to assume that I was being paid so when I told them I have never received a wage they asked me why I did it.

"And the answer was simply that seeing how the centre has helped so many people has given me so much satisfaction. All the hard work and stress has been worth it."

The centre is also home to around seven or eight groups who use it for their activities but the majority have been able to find new homes.

Karen was presented with gifts and cards from children who attended the free summer activity programme she ran at the centre over the holidays and she admitted the outpouring of affection left her feeling overwhelmed.

She said: "It is going to be such an emotional day when we hand back the keys for the final time because this centre has been my life for the past eight years."

A former Sunday school, the building served as a home for various community groups and local companies

After serving as a home for various community groups and local companies the building came into the hands of Burnley Council eight years ago and, alongside community partners, it has become the multi-purpose centre it is today.

Generous donations from Asda,Tesco, Morrisons have enabled trustees to kit out the premises.

Karen said that all the money left in the account when the centre shuts will be donated to the North West air Ambulance and the Macmillan Cancer Support nurses.

Burnley Council is hoping to find someone who will take over centre which is based in Springfield Road.