HorseWorld Trust confirms closure of Whitchurch Visitor Centre
HorseWorld's Whitchurch Visitor Centre sadly closed its doors for the last time in February 2014.
Like many UK charities, HorseWorld has suffered from plummeting voluntary donations. At the same time our rescue work has been busier than ever.
Despite some successes in building income, particularly through increased visitor numbers, we have desperately needed to expand, modernise and redevelop the Visitor Centre so that it could accommodate more visitors and encourage those visitors to stay longer.
To secure those benefits for HorseWorld, planning applications were submitted to Bath & North East Somerset Council (B&NES) in May 2013 for an enabling development of housing on the visitor centre site with the sale proceeds used to construct a new, purpose built visitor centre on the charity’s adjacent land.
By accommodating more visitors, who would spend more money on an improved facility, the proposed new visitor centre would have allowed the charity to increase its income to a level where it would become entirely self-funding. It would also have resulted in significant cost efficiencies by merging the welfare yard with a new visitor centre.
The applications were considered by B&NES Development Control Committee (DCC) in November 2013 and despite recommendations for the applications from the planning officers the DCC members chose not to approve the applications. This decision was made by councillors despite being advised of the possible consequence that a refusal might result in the closure of the existing Whitchurch visitor centre.
The planning refusal meant that the Trustees needed to review all possible options for saving costs, including the closure of the visitor centre, which has been incurring a deficit of income over expenditure because the centre was no longer fit for purpose and required significant expenditure simply to maintain the old and unsuitable buildings and facilities. It is also a costly operation to staff because of its separate location from HorseWorld’s main facilities.
The visitor centre closed its doors on 28th February 2014. Horses from the visitor centre were moved to HorseWorld’s Equine Welfare facilities -Keynes Farm or rehomed via HorseWorld’s loan scheme.
Mark Owen, HorseWorld's Managing Director said “I am very sad to have to close one the areas much loved attractions. I would like to sincerely thank everyone who has supported the charity through the visitor centre over the 14 years it has been open. Now is the time though, for us to focus all our efforts on our core Charitable Equine rescue, rehabilitation and rehoming work. We are very much still here and still rescuing horses in need.”
First published 28th February 2014 and covered by local newspapers, radio and television.
Please see our Events page for details of upcoming Open Days and Events at our Welfare Department which is right next door to the old Visitor Centre.
Article by: Amy Williams
Posted on: 1st November 2014