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Sorry for the copypasta, but the newspapers explain it better than I could. This centre is an amazing help to people in the area and the idea of anyone harming it is awful :-(
PRESTONS landmark Space Centre, which provides vital services for thousands of severely disabled people across Lancashire, is being threatened with closure after more than £800,000 in funding was proven not to exist.
Police today confirmed they are investigating claims that a fund raising consultant at the Pedders Way facility forged letters saying grant money was on its way to the centre, when in fact the cash had never even been applied for.
It has left bosses at the Ashton centre with a £350,000 debt for building work which is partially finished and £150,000 for design work already carried out and equipment for the sensory room. If that cash cannot be found urgently, the entire centre risks closure.
Today the Trustees made a desperate appeal for help to raise the money and keep the facility going.
Alison Shorrock, centre manager at the Space Centre, said: The Trustees and centre staff are absolutely devastated. This has left us in a dire situation now where we need to pay the builders and other contractors, who are being incredibly supportive. We are in debt to the tune of half a million pounds and are desperately trying to avoid going into administration.
If we have to sell the building to someone and lease it back, we would find this very difficult as we do not operate with the intention of making a profit, we operate purely to keep the centre open.
The Space Centre first opened in Pedders Lane in 1993. In March 2011, SPACE bought the next door building with grant funding as part of plans to create an additional sensory room and better facilities for the centre users, including a cafe/social area and superb changing facilities for those in wheelchairs.
Since then a major building project has been underway to transform the premises into one the countrys most innovative centres for the disabled.
Trustees at the centre first employed a grant funding manager on a salary of £28,000 in September 2010 to apply for grants for the ambitious project. More than £750,000 towards the project WAS secured from Grant funders and community fund raising, but a further £800,000-plus, which Trustees were assured was on its way to help pay for the work, will never be received because the money was either never applied for or applications were rejected.
The problem was only uncovered last month when the funding manager left the centre and went on holiday and the promised cash never arrived in the Space Centre bank account.
It was then that Alison and other staff started contacting the organisations who were supposed to be providing the grants and discovered they had been lied to.
When the money didnt come into the bank account we started ringing round foundations and found, to our horror, that none of the grants existed, added Alison. Not only could we lose the building and phase two, we could lose the existing building as well, which would affect thousands of people with disabilities from Lancashire and around the country. If we can save the building we can start fund raising again, it is just the fear of losing the building. Despite letters, which appear to be forgeries, from various foundations saying grant cash was coming, and a spreadsheet showing what had been applied for, Trustees say they discovered 12 grants had never been applied for and a further five, which they were told they would be receiving, had actually been refused.
One of the fabricated grants was £200,000 for staffing from the Big Lottery Fund. An administration worker was hired on the strength of that and has now lost her job
Attempts to contact the former fund raiser since have proved fruitless.
The Space Centre caters for more than 200 groups of disabled people, ranging in size from one to 10 people, every month. They range in age from young children to adults. The centre is described as a sensory space where children and adults with physical. learning and emotional difficulties can develop skills and enjoy experiences not usually available to them.
Alison added: If it was to close, for some it would make a massive dent in their therapeutic, social. health and leisure activities because they cannot access ordinary facilities.
Det Insp Jo Edwards, of Preston CID, said: We have been made aware of a report regarding financial irregularities made in relation to the Trust Funding manager and inquiries are ongoing to establish the full facts.