The future of an outdoor activity centre in Shoreham has been secured, as a new operator prepares to take over the site.
Adur District Council has awarded a 15 year lease on the Adur Outdoor Activity Centre (AOAC) to a partnership of two organisations – education charity United Learning and outdoor education specialists Adventure Lifesigns.
It marks the end of nearly two years of uncertainty over the site – after the centre closed when the previous operators went into voluntary liquidation in 2015.
The centre, which sits on council-owned land on the banks of the River Adur, will undergo re-decoration before reopening to schools and the wider community next year with activities such as climbing and water-sports.
Councillor Emma Evans, executive member for the environment at Adur District Council, said; “I am really pleased we have concluded this deal for this much-loved facility.
“The AOAC brings together two great opportunities for the people of the district.
“It enables them to see close up the wonderful natural environment we have here and of course to live active lifestyles.
“I am sure it will soon once again be a fantastic community asset for Shoreham.”
A longer term refurbishment plan will also begin to support the sustainability of the facility.
The partnership will review opportunities to introduce facilities such as an outdoor artificial caving system, high ropes, a shooting range, camping and a diving centre.
The council carried out a public consultation in 2016 to find out what facilities the community would like to see at the centre, and the council said residents’ views helped to influence the decision-making process in awarding the new lease.
The consultation found that the activities most desired by residents were climbing, kayaking, canoeing and paddle boarding.
Residents wanted activities to be available during the school holiday and at weekends, according to the findings.
As a result, the centre will be open for community use during the school holidays.
Courses leading to qualifications will also be available in subjects such as climbing, navigation, diving, life-saving, first aid and canoeing.
Councillor David Simmons, executive member for health and wellbeing, said: “It’s brilliant news that this vital community hub is to re-open.
“Shoreham is already a thriving place for outdoor activities, whether it’s cycling on the Downs link, walking on the downs or taking part in watersports on the river.
“Once open, I believe AOAC will become a hub for all these activities, going a long way to improve the health and wellbeing of thousands of people in the district and the wider region.”
Jon Coles, Chief Executive of United Learning which operates Shoreham Academy and a number of other schools in West Sussex said: “We are pleased to be able to secure the future of the AOAC and ensure that generations of young people in the area and beyond will be able to benefit from its wide range of outdoor activities and training delivered by experts at the centre.
“We are also very aware of the enthusiasm across the community for everything it has to offer and are therefore very keen that we maximise its wider use during evenings and weekends.”
Al Cole, chief executive of Adventure Lifesigns, said: “We are excited to be moving forward with this unique opportunity for Shoreham and the wider community.
“Our partnership with United Learning will bring together the best of our organisations and inject a new lease of life into the centre.”