Volunteers urgent appeal for new site

Members of ParticipAction, a gardening group who for the last twelve years have been located at Stainsacre Hall. the Hall is now being sold.''w110411a   Picture: Ceri Oakes   25/01/11
Members of ParticipAction, a gardening group who for the last twelve years have been located at Stainsacre Hall. the Hall is now being sold.''w110411a Picture: Ceri Oakes 25/01/11

VOLUNTEERS who have been running a horticultural scheme for 12 years helping people with mental health problems and learning difficulties in Whitby are dismayed to learn they are to lose their land.

The scheme, ParticipAction is located at Stainsacre Hall owned by Middlesbrough Borough Council.

The hall has been used by the council as an outdoor education centre and some years ago was also used by Redcar and Cleveland Council and Stockton Borough Council.

But now in order to bring it in line with present-day standards more than £400,000 needs to be spent on it. In addition it costs £120,000 a year to run.

The number of youngsters using it has fallen from 5,750 overnight stays in 2006 to fewer than 1,000 in 2009 with day visits down to just over 800 in the same year.

As a result, Middlesbrough Council decided it was not providing good value for money for its council tax payers and closed the hall last October with the intention of selling it. Barrie Shade, who chairs the ParticipAction committee said: “It’s a big disappointment to us and to our great dismay we have been given notice to quit the site by 31 March.

“We are volunteer led, have no paid staff and do not charge clients to attend our sessions.”

ParticipAction provides people with mental health problems and learning difficulties the opportunity to experience meaningful activities using horticulture and its variants as a vehicle for therapy.  

The scheme has greenhouses, poly-tunnels and sheds on a 40 metre by 40 metre site and some of the people using the scheme have individual plots.

They grow about 4,000 bedding plants each year which they sold to help finance the scheme. They also got small grants from some charitable organisations as well as the National Health Service.

Mr Shade added: “Middlesbrough Council has been good to us and they have agreed to give us £4,000 in compensation and for the structures we’re leaving on the site.

“Our charity will continue but we desperately need a new site for our clients. We need it to be a minimum of 40 metres by 20 metres and we also need to have toilets on it and some kind of community shed where they can chat and socialise.

“Some of our clients just come for that but those who work prefer it to be highly labour intensive.”

Further information is available at www.participaction.net.

Stainsacre Hall is not a listed building and is of little historic importance. In the eighteenth century it was owned by Jonathan Sanders, a Whitby banker and merchant.