The Riverside Centre, which could be gifted to a community trust by the Isle of Wight Council. Picture by Peter Boam.
THE Riverside Centre looks set to be gifted to a community trust, hopefully securing its future and ending a protracted and bitter row over the lease, but at significant cost to the cash-strapped Isle of Wight Council.
Executive members will meet on Tuesday to discuss plans for a community asset transfer of the building to a trust body comprising current leaseholder the Riverside Centre Ltd — the charity that runs the centre — and community groups.
If the plans are approved, the building would be leased for 125 years at a peppercorn rent.
It is hoped the proposal will secure the future of the centre as an information and advice hub, providing support to disabled people, those with long-term health conditions and their carers.
Scrutiny members, who met yesterday (Thursday), backed the plans. However, some questioned whether the council, which needs to cut its budget by £28m over the next three years, could afford to lease a building that could fetch £850,000 on the open market.
Cllr Stuart Hutchinson said: "We are effectively giving it away for free. It's a valuable asset in the middle of Newport. If a developer came along who wanted redevelop the area, we wouldn't have that opportunity."
But Cllr Jon Gilbey, the executive member overseeing the plans, urged them to consider the broader picture. He said the Riverside Centre was a vital facility for disabled people, and the long lease would provide stability.
Cllr Richard Priest, who is Riverside Centre manager, left the meeting during the discussion and has not taken part in other Isle of Wight Council discussions about the transfer.
*Committee chairman Cllr Geoff Lumley, who is a trustee of the Riverside Centre, also left the meeting during the discussion.
For more on this story, please see the Isle of Wight County Press today, Friday, June 6.