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Authority seeks public views on future of Losehill Hall learning centre

This is an archived press release

Monday 27 September 2010

27 September 2010

National Park Authority seeks public views on future of Losehill Hall learning centre

The Peak District National Park Authority is asking for people’s views on the future of its Losehill Hall environmental learning and conference centre in Castleton.

With Government spending cuts forecast at 20-30 per cent, the Authority is faced with finding savings of £1m-£1.9million over four years.

Closure of Losehill Hall would save an estimated £250,000 to £300,000 a year in running costs, contributing an estimated 15 per cent to the Authority’s required savings over four years and, if sold, a substantial capital income.

The Authority (on Fri Sept 24) decided to give more time to look into partnerships for the delivery of services currently provided at Losehill Hall. It will also give local people, staff, customers and interest groups a six-week period to offer further solutions.

Authority chair Narendra Bajaria said: “We have considered carefully the Management Team recommendation and also views of staff and members of the public and we really appreciate the thoughts they shared with us. Everyone, the staff, union and people who use Losehill Hall were rightly proud and passionate about its role. They played an important part in the Authority deciding to give more time for public consultation before making this very difficult decision.”

Meanwhile exploratory talks with potential partners will continue - two have so far expressed an initial interest.

At present, Losehill Hall has 28 full-time equivalent posts (41 individuals who include learning and hospitality staff). A statutory process of looking for redeployments has to start immediately, followed if necessary in three months by redundancy notices, though this could change if a potential partner wanted to transfer some staff. There are also 45 casual workers such as education visits leaders who would be affected.

The Authority proposes to continue to meet its statutory purpose to promote understanding of the national park’s special qualities through a reduced learning team. It would operate across the national park and focus on high-priority groups such as young people, families and community groups, though residential facilities at Losehill Hall would go.

In the meantime, it is intended the learning service will continue at Losehill Hall until at least the end of March 2011.

During the Authority’s 40-year operation of Losehill Hall, generations of children have learned about the national park and environmental issues, and professionals from all over the world have had training courses and conferences.

In 2009-10 the learning team hosted education visits across the national park for 22,500 people, from primary schoolchildren to university students, families and community groups. Losehill Hall also provided conference facilities for 3,900 people and training for more than 1,000 environmental professionals.

Now with 41 en-suite bedrooms, four training rooms, a dining room, bar, and 27 acres of parkland, Losehill Hall was originally constructed in 1882 as a private house for a wealthy local businessman. It remained in private hands until 1952 when the Co-operative Society developed it as a holiday and education centre.

The former Peak Park Planning Board bought it in 1970 with help from the Countryside Commission, and it was officially opened as the Peak National Park Study Centre in 1972 by HRH Princess Anne. It has undergone considerable improvements and extensions since, and is an eco-centre, generating energy from a biomass boiler.

People can give their ideas on www.peakdistrict.gov.uk/losehillconsultation  by Monday November 8. A drop-in consultation event for the public is also being arranged. A report will then go to the next Authority meeting on December 3.

This is an archived press release

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