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Canoeing business up for grabs

Canoe instructors and training providers are being given the opportunity to take over some of the work currently undertaken by the council’s outdoor education team at Castle Green in Hereford.

As part of Herefordshire Council’s review into youth services undertaken last year, the council has been consulting with users and staff to see if the Outdoor Education Sailing Centre at Bodenham Lake and the Canoe Centre at Castle Green could become commercially viable without any public subsidy.

81 per cent of those who responded to the consultation undertaken in 2012 (207 people), said they don’t want the council-run centres to close. However, in spite of a campaign to boost business which began last April, the centres are continuing to operate at a loss.  The council is keen to make sure that the 500 young people who use the facilities each year can continue to enjoy them, although the subsidies cannot continue.

The local authority has therefore decided not to provide these services directly itself, but work with community groups and other third sector organisations to see if they can provide the services instead.  Discussions are taking place around transferring equipment and rights to river access in return for providing free sessions for the county’s most vulnerable young people.  Other users would pay the going rate – as they do at the moment.

Councillor Patricia Morgan, cabinet member for health and wellbeing, said: “We cannot afford to continue subsidising outdoor education, but we have listened to current users who clearly want to continue enjoying canoeing activities on the river.  In addition, learning outside of the classroom encourages some of our more challenging young people to develop positive relationships, self-confidence and deal with change better.

“There are nearly 30 existing commercial and voluntary providers of outdoor education services in Herefordshire and surrounding counties.  So rather than the council compete with them for business, it makes sense that we help them boost their business and provide users with choice.”

The Outdoor Education Centre will continue trading until March 28th 2013 when its assets will be transferred and the new arrangements will begin.