Lifeline for threatened Austerfield Study Centre, Doncaster

Sue Rose at the Austerfield Field Study in which herself and a group of volunteers are recuing from closure
Sue Rose at the Austerfield Field Study in which herself and a group of volunteers are recuing from closure
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Hopes for the future of an under-threat Doncaster education centre have been raised after new funding was found.

The Austerfield Study Centre faced the axe under the borough’s planned budget cuts.

But volunteers have now set up a social enterprise which they hope will keep it running as a sustainable operation for the future.

The centre had been due to close this month, when the last of 2,000 pupils to use the centre this year had finished their visits.

It was due to close as one of a number of spending cuts which were announced this year by Doncaster Council as part of its austerity savings.

But now a combination of backing from businesses and a team of volunteers appear to have been enough to keep it going.

The centre offers children a chance to study nature and provides children with either residential accommodation in dormitories and camping.

Sue Rose, a director of Austerfield Study Centre Ltd, said: “The centre is vitally important.

“It has 10,000 children going through annually, and people are lucky to have it.

“For some children, it is the only opportunity they get to experience a trip away from home and for others it is the only chance they have to be introduced to the natural environment.

“We hope we will now be able to keep it going for another generation of children.

“We now feel we’re in a position to keep it going. It has been a white-knuckle ride.”

The centre will also be used as a community centre for Austerfield residents.

Built in 1882 and bought by Doncaster Council in 1973, Austerfield was initially set up as an environmental education resource.

Over the years it developed its capacity to support more than 10,000 children a year, employing six people.

However, staff numbers have had to be reduced in more recent times.

It has now recruited about 30 volunteers from the area and has been given financial support from local organisations such as Prosper De Mulder – also known as PDM Group – and Hanson UK have already pledged their support.

The centre is now looking for more local businesses to offer the funding that will enable it to develop its plans to become a social enterprise.

Members are also looking for more members of the community to get involved, as they think they may need specific skills.

Philip Simpson, PDM Group commercial director, said: “PDM understands the important lessons nature has to offer our future generations. The Austerfield Centre is an important asset to the children and families of Doncaster in many ways and we are delighted to support their efforts in securing a long-term future.”

Businesses and individuals interested in supporting the centre should contact Sue Rose on 01302 531034 or info@austerfieldstudycentre.co.uk.