Sunday teas to be forced to end

1/2/11   The new Washburn Heritage Centre  attached to the church of  St Michael and St Lawrence at Fewston.
1/2/11 The new Washburn Heritage Centre attached to the church of St Michael and St Lawrence at Fewston.

A GROUP of residents in Fewston are organising a community campaign this week to try and thwart plans to close the Sunday Charity Teas at Fewston Parochial Hall.

The group, run by volunteers, serves teas and coffees to people in Fewston and raised over £13,000 for charities such as the Yorkshire Air Ambulance and McMillan Cancer Support last year.

The reason for the closure is the proposed inclusion of a private coffee franchise at the new Washburn Heritage Centre at Fewston, which would have to compete with the nearby community-run charity teas group.

At a time when many local and national charities are hard pressed, the proposed closure of the local voluntary run scheme has angered some villagers. Around 20 different groups are involved in the running of the Sunday charity teas including local schools and members of different charities.

Resident Helen Flynn, who is also the Liberal Democrat spokesman, said the group welcomed the new heritage centre but felt the teas would benefit the centre by bringing even more people to the area.

“Though there is no doubt that this will be a fabulous venture for the church and will facilitate greater numbers of visitors to our area, bringing significant economic and cultural benefits to the Washburn valley and surrounding areas, it is a shame that it is at the cost of the well established Sunday charity tea rota at the nearby Fewston Parochial Hall,” she said.

Ms Flynn said she was hoping to organise a meeting and a leaflet drop over the next two weeks.

In addition to the lost income for charities, according to Ms Flynn, closing the Sunday charity teas rota would harm the viability of Fewston Parochial Hall as a community hub. The hall would lose out because the group would no longer be able to rent the premises, which is also used for meetings, sports and community events.

The Rev Sue Wharton of the Parochial Church Council, which owns both the church and the heritage centre, said the situation with the charity teas would be reviewed in October, but added the church was under incredible financial pressure and the funding from the new heritage centre was vital to its survival.

She added: “The heritage centre is an imaginative project that brings great benefits to the community.”

The centre cost £750,000 and is an extension to the village church, acting as a community base to the many walkers who go trekking in the area every year as well as to local villagers. The PCC raised £60,000 towards the project which also received Lottery funding.