Heeley protesters win reprieve

A Sheffield community centre has been given a reprieve after widespread protests.

The council said it had "listened to the voice of community groups" and had taken the Heeley Bank Centre off the open market.

Deputy leader Steve Jones is now encouraging user groups to come up with a business plan, assuring them that if a sustainable plan can be pulled together the building will not be sold.

He is encouraging community groups to form a management committee to check on the potential for grants.

The old school, a listed building in Heeley Bank Road, is used by artists, a writers' group, youth groups and the School Room climbing centre. A recent protest saw climbers abseil down the building.

Centre users were served with notices to quit pending a sale, believed to be scheduled for November.

Save Heeley Bank Centre campaigners claimed there was no consultation and organised a petition that attracted more than 1,000 names.

Coun Jones visited the centre this week "to offer advice and encouragement to the groups who use the building on ways to keep it open". The authority had intended to sell the building because of the scale of the investment needed to bring it back to standard.

Now there is a commitment by all sides to see what can be done to retain the building for community use in the long term, including checking on the approaches of similar centres in Sheffield.

Coun Jones said: "I want to be as helpful as I can to the groups who use this building, who want to see it continue to be a venue they can use. There's no quick solution but if they're keen to give it a go, I'm ready and willing to assist."