PLANS for a peaceful protest have been revealed as campaigners demand that Braeside and Oxenwood are saved from closure.

Political divisions were put on hold for one night as groups came together to plan how to keep the residential children’s centres open.

Representatives from the Liberal Democrats, Labour and the Green Party were present at a meeting held in St Peter’s Church in Marlborough alongside angry staff, parents and former teachers, who all want to see the children’s outdoor services retained.

Up to eight companies have shown interest in bidding to run the sites and have until May 21 to contact Wiltshire Council.

The council will debate the issue on May 22, on the same day a protest will take place by parents disgusted that the outdoor education sites might be shut down on August 31.

The deadline for businesses to express interest in running the centres was extended by a month in April following public outrage at the shock closure announcement.

Ross Hemming, Liberal Democrat councillor for Chippenham, said: “With enough pressure on Wiltshire Council we can extend the deadline for interested parties to come forward.

“The current deadline is so short, it is ridiculous. Wiltshire Council want to steamroller the decision through and wash their hands of the centres. This uncertainty means they are cutting off the blood supply to the centres and they are going to make it fail.”

Sylvia Card, constituency party chairman of Devizes Labour Party said: “If Braeside and Oxenwood are sold off, they will be lost to the community forever. Now is the time to hold Wiltshire Council to account.”

Staff at the both sites have been left in limbo with bookings dated until 2019 thrown into doubt.

Keith Browning, manager of Braeside, said: “Other parties are interested in running Braeside. If we can support these parties and can keep our staff, that would be great.

“That is where in my view it is the most beneficial way to spend our own energies now.”

Chair of managers at Braeside, Dave Borries said: “Because they are run by Wiltshire Council systems, the manager’s hands are tied. For example, running five computers at Braeside and the Wi-Fi currently costs the managers £50,000 a year. The managers can only do what they can with the limited money Wiltshire Council allow them to have.”

Bill Yates, of Little Bedwyn, said: “If this service goes, then what is next? The things they cut will be hit the poorest hardest.

“That is the sign of inequality when what little the poor have access to is taken away.”

The meeting also provided an opportunity for Labour to explain the reason for its absence at a council meeting in April where the Overview and Scrutiny committee voted not to re-examine whether the decision to close the facilities had been made fairly.

Labour received criticism for being absent from the vote which was opposed to by eight votes to five.

Liberal Democrat councillor Dr Brian Mathew said: “Labour absentee councillors could not know that outcome before the meeting.

“Perhaps their presence and contribution to the debate might have helped persuade another Conservatives to vote against the party line.

“At that point Labour’s absence would have been crucial.”

Cllr John Walsh represents the only Labour seat on the Overview and Scrutiny committee and explained he did not attend the meeting was because he missed an email notification.

He added: “Had I been there I would happily put my support with the centres, but due to the way the vote went, my vote would not have changed the final decision.”

Labour leader Ricky Rogers said: “I didn’t know about the meeting either, maybe if it was scheduled in the normal way more of us could have turned up and more of the public could have come.

“We are there to deliver what the people want. If the public want these centres to remain open, we should listen to them and so should cabinet members.”

Wiltshire Council will debate the closures on May 22, when campaigner Lucy Gomes hands in a petition with more than 16,000 signatures during a peaceful protest at County Hall in Trowbridge.