CHARITIES hoping to take over the reins at Braeside in Devizes say they have been left in the dark about the future of the children’s outdoor centre.

Wiltshire Wildlife Trust and Somerset-based charity Magdalen Farm have submitted a joint plan to form a new charity and invest in the site, but say they have heard nothing from Wiltshire Council to acknowledge their bid.

A spokesman for Wiltshire Council refuted the claim and said all groups that expressed an interest in the sites had now been contacted. A spokesman said: “Braeside and Oxenwood will stay open until the end of the year while market testing is carried out on options for the future of the outdoor education sites.”

Braeside and Oxenwood were due to shut in August but the council delayed the closures following a strong backlash from members of the public about the lack of consultation surrounding the closure.

Wiltshire Wildlife Trust and Magdalen Farm believe they have a strong case to run the centre with a special focus on providing respite for disabled and disadvantaged people at weekends and outside of school terms.

Giles Aspinal, chief executive of Magdalen Farm, said:

“We are waiting to hear from Wiltshire Council about the next steps. When Wiltshire Council made the commitment on May 22 to make every best effort to keep the centres open, that changed the landscape for us and any group making a case to run Braeside. We feel we are a strong contender.

“We currently offer a free respite weekend to families with children with autism worth £200k.

“If you ask a person what do they remember from school the majority will say a school trip.”

Damian Haasjes, head of business development and community engagement at Wiltshire Wildlife Trust said: “The trust carries out a lot of adult wellbeing work which we will continue as well as our work with forest school with children with special needs and young people.

“Wiltshire Council’s argument that only 30 per cent of schools use the centres is ridiculous and in reality by forcing back the decision date they are making it financially less viable.

“It is losing bookings and it will take time for us to rebuild this contact base back up again. Braeside helps 4,000 children a year. We will be looking at the social capital in retaining this venue for young people.”

A Wiltshire Council spokesperson said: “Following the council decision on 12 June to keep both outdoor education sites open until Christmas we are now into a formal advertised process to assess the potential future operators offers for the operation. This gives all community groups, charities and private sector operators the chance to make their bid for the centres’ operation. We hope to conclude by October 2018 to allow any potential new operator/s a handover period. Over recent weeks we have received further interest in the sites operation and we are in regular communication with all potential future operators. In the meantime Braeside and Oxenwood will be open during the autumn term up to Christmas and schools who may be interested in booking up slots can do so through the councils Right Choice website or by calling the centres direct. Although we cannot confirm bookings after January 2019 at this stage, if schools would like to make provisional bookings for next year they can contact the centres with the dates they require.”