PEOPLE in Hereford are calling on the Royal Voluntary Service (RVS) to stick to their core values when they decide who they sell the Riverside Centre to.

The former vicarage on Vicarage Road was sold at auction in October 1963 to the then Women’s Voluntary Service for £5,100.

The WVS used it as a much-loved base for a meals-on-wheels service, a residential club, clothing store and space for the local scout troop.

And in 2004 the charity received £1m of public money to turn the building into the state-of-the-art Riverside Community Centre complete with a purpose-built nursery, office accommodation and commercial kitchen.

But the centre was gradually run down and eventually closed.

The property is currently on the market with Sunderlands estate agents with “offers upwards of £500,000”.

Residents in St James want to make sure whoever takes on the building keeps the community in mind.

More than 300 people are backing a campaign to keep part of the building in use for the public good.

Local councillor Jeremy Milln, who backs the campaign, said: “We want to try and encourage the RVS to ensure that whoever succeeds in buying the building preserves the nature of public benefit it was set up to deliver.

“After all, the RVS is all about voluntary service for the community and it has done a very good job for many years.”

Hereford Times:

Campaigners say there is an opportunity to use some of the building and grounds to expand space for St James CofE School onto the site.

Anna Layton, a local resident whose child attends St James school, said: “One of the interested parties is offering the school a nursery and to gain much needed space.

“The RVS has an opportunity and a duty to leave a favourable footprint on this community and what better way than to support our children?”

Hereford charity Vennture, who are understood to be one of the bidders, have reached out to the school regarding the much-needed space.

And St James CofE primary school governors have also written to parents about their aims to secure more space for nursery at the RVS.

They say the school is in talks with two of the bidders who want to purchase the building.

The governors have also dispelled rumours that the school is looking to relocate.


Professor calls on Herefordshire school to axe 'medieval' sex education lessons

Plans to rebuild special needs school in Herefordshire

Coronavirus: Fears over impact of lockdown on children's mental health

“We are aware that there could be many potential interested parties with the building being in central Hereford, having ample parking and the building itself offering a large amount of space,” the letter reads.

“Governors have met with two different organisations interested in the building who can offer different benefits to the school should they be successful.

“One space for a nursery and the other offering different potential benefits.

“We are aware that some information is circulating on various social media suggesting the school may relocate. This is not true.

“We make the very best of the older part of the building and ensure it is suitable for educating the pupils at our school.

“We value support from parents and the local community in its wish for the school to continue to be successful, grow and develop.

“The bidding process is still open to anyone interested in buying the building until around April time.

“Whatever the outcome may be, whether the successful bidder is one willing to work with the school or not, governors and staff will do all they can to ensure the school continues to thrive.”

Royal Voluntary Service’s volunteering director Rebecca Kennelly said it was a difficult decision to put the Riverside Centre up for sale.

“We plan to carefully review all offers, but we do not intend on making a decision until the Community Asset Process has concluded,” she said.

“The grant received from the Learning Skills Council in 2004 part funded the conversion, construction and refurbishment of the vicarage building into the community centre which has been used for a number of years.

“Unfortunately, the ongoing costs of running the centre are just no longer viable for Royal Voluntary Service and as a charity, we need to focus on distributing our resources in a way that has the greatest possible impact.

“Any sale will of course be in line with our obligations as a charity.”

Click here to find out more about the space for St James campaign.

Hereford Times: