Sunderland outdoor charity faces closure after loss of its base

Humbledon Outdoor Activities Association chairman David Mills, with treasurer Dr Chris May and trustee Brian Arrowsmith at the St Gabriel's Avenue garage, which they have been given notice to quit.

Humbledon Outdoor Activities Association chairman David Mills, with treasurer Dr Chris May and trustee Brian Arrowsmith at the St Gabriel's Avenue garage, which they have been given notice to quit.

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A charity is appealing for help after the loss of its 30-year home left it facing closure.

Humbledon Outdoor Activities Association, which provides year-round activities for people with severe learning disabilities, uses a large garage block belonging to the Parker Memorial Home Trust, on Kayll Road, Sunderland.

Some members of the group have been with the charity for all of its 30-year existence.

Some members of the group have been with the charity for all of its 30-year existence.

However, the trustees of the trust – which include councillors – have now served a four-week eviction order on the association, which has always been based there rent-free.

With nowhere to store a minibus and lots of equipment, the charity is being faced with closure, according to secretary Phil Puckrin, unless a new home can be quickly found.

He said: “We will be unable to function without a garage for our minibus and equipment.

“We have 33 members, all Sunderland residents, and all classified at special schools as having severe learning disabilities. Most of them now live in residential care homes.

To people with disabilities, our activity programme is worth a hundred times more than any income these garages would generate.

Phil Puckrin

“These are the people whose lives will be blighted if we have to close down.

“Our association takes them away on three residential camps every year, organises day activities every month and runs a swimming club every week.

“These events are highlights in our members’ lives, and the only way they can get out to enjoy outdoor experiences.

“To people with disabilities our activity programme is worth a hundred times more than any income these garages would generate because it keeps them healthier, happier and more independent.”

The interim chair of trustees at Parker Memorial Home, Coun Mel Speding, insists they can no longer be expected to allow the charity to use the premises for free.

He said: “As trustees of Parker Memorial Home, we are working with the city council and our voluntary sector partners to return the buildings to the community use for which they were always intended.

“Renovation plans have been drawn up for the buildings – which have lain empty for some time – to provide a community base for young people with access to social, training, education and personal development opportunities.

“The garages, which belong to the buildings, have been provided rent and rate free to Humbledon Outdoor Activities Association for almost 30 years.

“We can no longer be expected to meet those costs, and the garages must be empty to allow renovation work at the site to begin.

“The trustees all wish the association well in the future, and hope that they can find an alternative base.”

Coun Speding added: “Sunderland City Council is purely a custodian of the charity which administers Parker Memorial Home.

“It is not owned or managed by the city council, and any decisions on the future use of the building and the garages which belong to it are the sole responsibility of the trustees.”

The charity is now hoping to find a new store for its minibus and equipment, and Mr Puckrin added: “We are appealing to Sunderland Echo readers and the city council to help us find an alternative storage place such as a large garage or secure compound that could house a minibus, trailers and canoes.

“It would be great to find somewhere central so members have easy access, but anywhere in the Sunderland area would be considered.

“This is very urgent – if we don’t find anywhere by December our association will have to close.”

Anyone who may be able to help can contact the association’s office on 0191 548 3715.