PEOPLE power has won the first battle to preserve a historic building at the centre of community life for generations to come.

Saiqa Chaudhari reports.

A COMMUNITY centre has been thrown a lifeline after 50 people packed a crunch meeting to persuade councillors to support a quarter of a million bid to safeguard its future.

The Barlow in Edgworth ­— described as being at the heart of village life ­— needs an urgent injection of money in the near future to repair it roof, or it faces the very real prospect of closing.

The roof is said to have holes in it and will cost £350,000 to repair with works on the rest of the building estimated at £450,000, but the roof is the number one priority.

The centre's desperate condition was spelled out a meeting of the North Turton Parish Council, with villagers turning out in force to urge parish councillors to back a public works loan of £250,000 to ensure the future of the historic building.

The Parish Council had previously said that its members had received legal advice against taking out the loan ­— which would be paid back through a parish council precept on the council tax bill.

But trustees of The Barlow argued the advice they received from the local authority and local MP Jake Berry did not match that given to the parish council.

Mike King, member of the public, described The Barlow as a "community significant asset".

Chairman of trustees of The Barlow Cllr Steve Danks, who is also a parish councillor, said: "We just about keep ourselves going through events and user groups, we can survive like that.

"The problem is we don't have capital reserves. Now North Turton Parish Council took advice, I wasn't consulted about the advice two or three people decided to take that advice and came back with this conclusion that the parish council legally couldn't do it."

He added: "We must be the only parish council in the community that isn't prepared to support its local community. The precept is approximately 20p a week at the end we are protecting the future.

"We have taken advice from Jake Berry MP and from Blackburn with Darwen and they say there is no reason why we shouldn't have a public works loan but you need the Parish Council to support it."

He added:"The roof could slip off in two years time."

Mike King, member of the public, described The Barlow as a "community significant asset".

He said:"The increase is £9.31 per year on a band D property, personally that represents something like 0.51 per cent I believe and personally I very happy to pay 0.51 per cent in order to get £250,000 loan over 30 years in benefit of this community.

"I believe most people will consider that an acceptable way as a step in the process of securing The Barlow."

Daniel Wild said: "Every person on the parish council is in favour of this building staying. We will do what we can.

"There are people in the village who are not as passionate as we all are and we have to cover ourselves with the fact that if we increase.

"We have had advice on and we increase it without taking what that advice gave us, we are open to being thrown to the lions. If we get advice contrary to that then absolutely no problem."

He added: "We need to absolutely make sure we are right."

The roof will cost £350,000 and is said to be the priority.

The trustees also have plans to apply to the Heritage Lottery Fund and have bids in with other organisations.

Cllr Danks said: "The future of The Barlow is at stake. In two years time if we don't do something then this place goes."

Other councillors expressed concerns about other areas of their constituency which may not use the Barlow

Mr King said: "We have lived on 100 years of a good quality building, we have lived on the ability to repair the place and keep it running now we have run out of that option.

"Most community centres do not have to run for profit because they are usually local authority and I believe most of the community centres in Blackburn are still maintained by the local authority, we are lucky to have community centre but which is inadequately funded."

After a debate lasting over an hour, parish councillors voted by a majority to support the bid in principle, with repayments met by increase in precept if it can be achieved legally. That would be subject to public consultation with 55 per cent of respondents taking part favouring it.

Speaking after the meeting Cllr Danks said: "I think in terms of support from Parish Council the meeting went well.

"There were issues raised in respect of Belmont and Chapeltown.

"We had tremendous support from the public which I was delighted with."

Anybody who wants to support the building and what it means to villagers can do so by joining the Friends of The Barlow for just £5 a month.

All the information is on the website


THE years are catching up with a building which has served the community well from 110 years.

The Barlow is in need of desperate repair, with trustees busy applying for grant, to give the "large and handsome" building in the centre of Edgworth a new lease of life, with a call for villagers to document the part the building plays in community life since 1909.

The Barlow Memorial Institute, as it was known then, in Edgworth, was opened during an afternoon of "great celebration and communal pride".

The building was a result of a private benefaction and dedicated to the memory James and Alice Barlow by their children, most notably Sir Thomas Barlow (1845– 1945).

Sir Thomas was born in Brandwood Fold, and after studying medicine in Manchester and London rose to become Professor of clinical medicine at University College London, and Royal Physician to Queen Victoria, Edward VII and George V. It was he, together with his brothers and sisters, who opened the doors at the dedication ceremony.

Villagers had long enjoyed the privilege of a recreation ground and this latest gift completed the memorial.

The Recreation Ground consisted of a bowling green, a cricket pitch, an open air swimming pool, tennis courts, a football pitch, a maze, and a decorative park complete with boating lake.

While the grounds catered for the physical welfare of the local residents, the institute catered for their minds and spirits with its reading rooms, library, lecture hall, gymnasium, billiard room and coffee room. Public baths were provided and welfare schemes put in place to support the more needy members of the community “no matter of what creed or politics”; the district nurse had consulting rooms there.

People took shelter in The Barlow from the harsh breezes, which the village was historically famous for.

Today the building is at the heart of the community, provides entertainment in the form of plays and music for villagers as well as different types of classes for young people.

Hardly a week goes by when there is not an event on.

What are Parish Councils

Local councils are the first tier of governance and are the first point of contact for anyone concerned with a community issue.

They are democratically elected local authorities

Parish councils have a wide range of powers including looking after community buildings, planning, street lighting, allotments. They also have the power to raise money through council tax.

See the full list of parish council responsibilities here.

New measures announced by the Government in 2013 will make it much easier to create a new parish council in the future. The measures include reducing the number of petition signatures needed from 10% of the local population to 7.5%. Community groups will also have the freedom to set up a parish or town council without a petition as long as they create a neighbourhood plan.

Local councils are made up of locally elected councillors. They are legally obliged to hold at least one meeting a year. Most meet on a six-weekly cycle to discuss council business and hear from local residents. In addition to this, any committees or sub-committees dealing with specific subjects must also hold regular open sessions.

How do you become a parish councillor? To qualify to be a parish councillor you must be:

· A British citizen, or a citizen of the Commonwealth or the European Union.

· At least 18 on the day that he or she is nominated as a candidate

· A registered local government elector within the parish

· A resident in the parish, or within three miles of the parish, or working full time in the parish for at least 12 months prior to the nomination or election day.

A person is disqualified from holding office as a parish or town councillor if:

· They hold a paid office, or other place of profit in the council

· They are the subject of a bankruptcy restriction order or interim order.

· They have been convicted of a criminal offence and sentenced to more than 3 months imprisonment within the last five years · They incur illegal expenditure (when acting as a councillor) of over £2,000, or are found guilty of using corrupt or illegal practices

How are parish councils funded?

The funding for parish councils is allocated by the district council and is taken from the area’s council tax.