MP Charlotte calls for a rethink on move to sell off St John Ambulance headquarters

May 05 2016
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MP Charlotte calls for a rethink on move to sell off St John Ambulance headquarters

ONE of the biggest St John Ambulance premises in the South West is to be sold off – despite it being on a solid financial footing and offering a valuable service to the local community.

The hall for the Bishopston branch in Tilling Road, Horfield, which was built by funds raised by members 40 years ago, is being closed by the charity as part of a cost saving policy.

Horfield councillor Claire Hiscott said she was angry that despite suggestions from the charity that management has worked with the branch, the decision appears to have been forced upon local members.

Protesters say revenue is generated from rentals to other community groups.

And in a letter to St John Ambulance chief executive Sue Killen, Bristol West MP Charlotte Leslie said that a sale for housing could have security implications due to its closeness to the local Army Reserve centre.

Ms Leslie, along with Cllr Hiscott, says that the sale will leave the community without a valuable facility which is used by several groups.

In her letter, Ms Leslie said: “I completely understand that charities have to operate efficiently and cut costs wherever possible, but not only is this particular Division one of the biggest in the South West, it has been financially sound since it was built from funds raised by its members nearly 40 years ago.

“The operators of the hall have allowed other community groups to rent the building from them to help generate revenue and secure income for the organisation. In so doing a most valuable community facility within my constituency has been created.

“There exists far more scope to generate revenue from community use, and it would seem counter to the ethos of St John Ambulance to opt for a closure and the consequent disbanding of a successful division, rather than attempt to raise revenue – especially when the building has been built through funds raised solely by community members.

“Moreover, trying to sell the land could be problematic as the Army Reserve Centre sits just behind the site and selling it for housing could have security implications.”

The MP added: “I am deeply disappointed and concerned by St. John’s Ambulance actions on this. This charity is built on the determination of its superb volunteers and It is not the kind of action I would have expected from a charity like this. I will be doing all I can to persuade the charity to reconsider this decision. “

In her reply to the letter, Ms Killen said the charity had a ‘national property strategy’ which involves ‘reducing the number of premises they own’. 

She said the Bishopston branch would not close but confirmed their intention to close the site this summer. Ms Killen accepted that Bishopston members feel a ‘strong emotional attachment’ to the building and accepted the way forward might be renting space near the current location.

Photo: Charlotte Leslie MP, city council candidate Nigel Currie and Horfield councillor Claire Hiscott outside the St John Ambulance base