'Dinnington welfare means so much to so many'

A DILAPIDATED and dangerous Dinnington eyesore might be in line for restoration as rallying residents this week began a fight for its future.

Much-loved Park House – the former miners' welfare – has become run down over the past two years, attracting drug users and antisocial behaviour.

But the Lodge Lane site still holds treasured childhood memories for many residents, who have set up a Friends group to ensure it remains part of the community.

"We want all the community to have their say about this, because the welfare means so much to so many," said Gail Fletcher, a lifelong Dinnington resident who is leading the campaign.

"I saw just how bad it had become when I was walking past one day, and decided to try and get people together on this and restore it to how it used to be."

"I remember it used to have the biggest slide for miles around, a snooker hall, ladies and gents bowling clubs, cricket, football and the tuck shop for the kids."

"At the moment it's dangerous, but we have been told that work on the roof and other bits and bobs should start in a couple of months."

A public meeting will take place next week, when the newly-formed group hopes to hear as many suggestions as possible. And former holiday rep Gail is keen to put forward her own ideas about what else could be included in Park House's future.

"Personally, I would also like to do an entertainment, leisure and recreation plan and arrange trips for kids and everything like that," she said.

"Some children have even volunteered to deliver leaflets about the meeting because they want it back to being somewhere they can go."

Children's charity Safe@Last were the last tenants at Park House, before relocating to bigger premises elsewhere in the town in August 2007.

The building dates back to 1926, and currently belongs to CISWO – the Coal Industry Social Welfare Organisation – the organisation which followed the Miners' Welfare Commission.

"You used to be able to give kids 10p for the tuck shop, they would come down here and you would know they would be safe," said Linda Holland.

"Now it's disgusting, and yet another reason why the kids have hardly anything to do."

"They can't all get to the play areas at Anston or High Nook, and can't always afford to get to the sports centres in Maltby and Rotherham. This welfare was supposed to be for the community here but it's just been ignored."

Roy Morton remembers being part of the NUM when they held union meetings at the welfare in the 1970s and 80s.

"It was originally donated from the Athorpe family to the miners of Dinnington. They were a very religious family, so we never opened it on a Sunday. When we needed an emergency meeting once, we ended up having it on the steps outside the door."

"I don't know what you can say about it now, other than it's a mess."

The Guardian highlighted the plight of Park House as a target for vandals in June 2008. Dinnington's trio of RMBC councillors are also backing the Friends' campaign.

"It's part of our history and it used to be a brilliant place," said Coun Jane Havenhand.

"I remember the youth club from when I was younger, and there was a caretaker who lived on site and kept it in good shape."

"There are a lot of people in Dinnington and locally who really do care about this. I would like to see someone take it and get it back to how it used to be, because it ought to be for community use. Although it won't be an easy project, I'd like to think it's possible."

A CISWO spokesman confirmed the lease was up for offer again.

"We have no plans at present for the Dinnington site as it has only just been returned to us after the lease expired," he added.

"Rotherham Council has had the building for a number of years for a number of different purposes. We are aware of it's condition and we know it's dangerous."

"But it is in the state it's in because it has been neglected by the local authority, and we are taking up this issue with them."

"We are open to ideas from people while we wait for offers."

An RMBC spokesman said: "We bought the building in 1919 and sold it in 1925. We then had the lease from 1974, which ran out in 2007/08."

The public meeting will be held at the Middleton Hall, on Barleycroft Lane, next Thursday at 7.30pm.

To contact the campaigners, call 01909 518348 or click here to email.

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