VILLAGERS on the Sheffield-Derbyshire border are making a last-ditch effort to try to save a craft centre from closure after 24 years.
They are urging councillors to shelve the sale of Ridgeway Craft Centre to give them time to produce a detailed business plan for a community-based alternative to what they believe will be housing.
A local consortium wants to explore the possibility of reviving the centre by adding a convenience store or post office, an artisan food outlet including a bakery or farm shop, a cafe and “good quality” shops – and it has already raised £330,000 among 60 individuals in an attempt to buy the land.
There have already been expressions of interest from potential tenants.
But unless the consortium can persuade North East Derbyshire District Council to change its mind, residents fear the site off Main Road will be sold to the highest bidder and be redeveloped for affordable housing.
“We feel this would be the thin end of the wedge and we’ll end up as a township rather than a village,” said spokeswoman Carolyn Renwick.
They fear they are facing a “done deal”, complaining they have not had the opportunity to put their case.
A petition has been launched asking the council to put its decision to accept the highest financial bid on hold until 2012/13, “which would give the whole village an opportunity to buy community shares, or secure external funding”.
The craft centre opened in a converted farm building in 1987 with the support of European funds and the aim of encouraging traditional and modern crafts. However, with uncertainty over its future, only a handful of the 14 units remain open, including a joiner, a potter and a cafe.
Mrs Renwick said the community’s strategy was in line with the Government’s Big Society concept – and it had received encouragement from Communities Secretary Eric Pickles.
It could be a flagship venture for Derbyshire, with a more flexible use, such as attracting farmers’ markets, and with the community working with the council. “There is a lot of potential to make it happen. We think the council should take breath and consider it.”
A council spokesperson said: “Representations from local residents were considered by the council’s cabinet on September 21 as part of ongoing discussions about the sale of Ridgeway Craft Centre.
“Since this meeting, further representations have been made by the residents – including a petition to the council – which are now being considered.”
He added: “The site has not been sold, although the council has received a number of offers.”