Pioneering centre to close

Director of The Fig Tree in Garstang, Bruce Crowther.
Director of The Fig Tree in Garstang, Bruce Crowther.
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A Wyre town’s pioneering Fig Tree Fair Trade Centre is set to leave town and could re-open in Lancaster.

Exasperated centre director Bruce Crowther said this week that after being ‘ignored’ by Wyre Council and a town council working party, it was time to leave its Garstang base.

He believes his public expression of interest in the Fig Tree buying all or part of the community centre on High Street – which houses the Fairtrade venue, businesses, a dance school and the town council – has been snubbed and they had to move.

He said: “Positive talks with Lancaster City Council continue and the Fig Tree board is very hopeful of securing a long term future in this historic neighbouring Fairtrade district.

“There is considerable sadness felt by the Fig Tree board and its stakeholders in having to move away from what it considers to be its true home in the world’s first Fairtrade town.

“It is now time to look forward.”

According to Wyre Council, the community centre is an underperforming asset and it has signalled its willingness to sell the Centre to the Town Council at an as yet undisclosed price.

But Mr Crowther, who first alerted the Town Council to the uncertainty over the centre’s future, declared at a Town Council meeting attended by Michael Ryan, Wyre’s director of people and places, that the The Fig Tree, as a community organisation, would be interested in buying the premises.

The Town Council held a public meeting before Christmas to discuss the issue and then set up its own working party, chaired by Mayor elect Coun Graham Salisbury to consider its options for the Centre.

The council succeeded in getting Wyre to list the centre as a community asset and is currently putting together a business plan to see whether purchasing it is a viable option.

A Wyre Council and Garstang Town Council statement read: “The Fig Tree has had (and continues to have) the same opportunity as the Town Council to secure Garstang Community Centre if they wish to. A suggestion to purchase some of the rooms in the building is not economically viable and the threat to vacate the premises unless their demand for free rent was met has quite rightly been ignored. Wyre Council, Garstang Town Council and indeed the tax-payers of the borough should not and will not be forced to subsidise this venture.”

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