A new £1.5million premises for Reach for Health will be funded in full by Daventry District Council after elected members voted in favour of granting the funds.
Reach for Health offers physical and mental rehabilitation for people who have suffered a major health trauma or are living with long term or life long illness. But the charity has outgrown the premises it rents from the council at High March.
In September it applied for planning permission for new premises on an unused area of the Daventry & District Sports Trust site at Western Avenue.
Council leader Chris Millar said that funding the site would leave a ‘very positive legacy’ for the council, ahead of its expected abolition in 2020 to make way for a new unitary authority council.
But a number of councillors raised concerns that the authority had ignored officers advice in deciding to fully fund the scheme itself. Officers had previously raised ‘financial concerns’ about the scheme, and said that adding the project to the capital programme is ‘likely to put the council in a borrowing position’.
But the support of the councillors at Thursday night’s full council meeting was welcomed by Rob Juson, the chair of trustees at Reach for Health.
He said: “This was a huge step and it allows us to move to another level. The current building, which we rent from the council, is pretty old with thin walls that cost a fortune to heat, and it’s too small because the numbers of people we are seeing are growing all the time. We are now experiencing 2,400 visits per month from people for physical and mental rehabilitation.
“The new building is going to be twice the size of the existing one, and will include a social area and multi-function room, as well as a very large rehabilitation area which will be much more spacious.”
But the vote to support the scheme was not plain sailing. The portfolio holder for finance and resources Councillor Colin Morgan asked for the issue to be deferred.
He said: “I really support this in terms of aims and objectives. But I’m not entirely sure whether we should support something that officers don’t support. I would like this to be deferred to come back with more information so I can support a real business case.”
Councillor Morgan was backed by Steve Osborne, who added: “I am not saying this because Reach for Health isn’t a brilliant organisation. But officers don’t think this is viable and the business case doesn’t stack up. I have always been told not to give money to something that does not raise money itself. I can’t support this when the officers don’t support this.”
But the motion to defer was rejected, and chief executive Ian Vincent said that time was running out for the authority and that it needed to move quickly if it was to support projects such as this one and the proposed cinema at Mulberry Place.
He told councillors: “We have a window up until March 31. The government confirmed last week that it was sticking with its original timetable. If you extend time, if you don’t get the decision in, the chances are that the guillotine will fall and we will be under the influence of a shadow authority which might not see these schemes as a priority.
“This is standard practice and as the scheme develops you bring it back for ultimate sign off in February and for the full business case to be signed off. This is not unusual, it happens with every major project.”
Council leader Chris Millar added: “I really believe the NHS should be contributing towards this excellent facility. We are pushing the line a bit on our finances now, but we are leaving a legacy and I think the money should be spent in our district. This could be a very positive legacy to leave behind for our residents.”
While the council has agreed to fund the project, it is also seeking external funding to assist with the project costs.