The Whitchurch based equine charity HorseWorld will close its visitor centre this Friday (28th February).
No redundancies have yet been announced and consultation is continuing with up to 24 staff whose jobs are at risk. Closure was first highlighted as a possibility when Managing Director Mark Owen addressed Bath & North East Somerset Council planners last Autumn. During the hearing into the charity’s ambitious plans to build a new and improved visitor centre at Keynes Farm and sell its current Staunton Lane site for housing, he told the committee their decision could either be a new dawn for HorseWorld or spell the end of a chapter in its 60 year history.
When the plans were rejected by B&NES Council, HorseWorld had to look at other means of stemming its continuing financial losses and entered into consultation on redundancy with staff last month. The closure of the visitor centre will see horses housed there transfer to HorseWorld’s welfare centre on the adjacent Keynes Farm while alternative uses are sought for the land at Staunton Lane.
After the refusal to grant planning permission last year, Mr Owen said the land would most likely have to be sold and ironically, would more than likely end up in the hands of a property developer. In today’s announcement however, he says that the charity is actively looking at an alternative use which could utilise the land and equine skills of staff employed at the visitor centre. While further details have yet to be confirmed, it is understood the project under scrutiny has come as a result of the ongoing staff consultation process.
In last week’s issue (No 308) the GMB Union which represents a large number of staff at HorseWorld, claimed that more should have been done to stem financial losses over the last five years (estimated to be almost £2m). Membership Development Officer Rowena Hayward said it was not correct to lay all the blame on the failed planning application.