Protestors making a last-ditch attempt to save the iconic building - which has been a holiday retreat in Winthorpe used by miners from Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire recovering from illness for 90 years - found they were locked out with security manning the gates when they arrived yesterday.
According to the charity The Coal Industry Social Welfare Organisation (CISWO), which has run the facility. the building is ‘no longer fit for purpose’.
However, protestor Geoff Poulter - who worked as a miner in Derbyshire for 32 years and served as an NUM branch official for 25 years - said he didn’t believe the building could not be saved,
Mr Poulter, a familiar face who retired to Ingoldmells after sustaining a serious back injury and went on to campaign to save Skegness Hospital’s Scarbrough Ward, had returned to Derbyshire but came back for the protest.
Joining other miners from Nottingham and Yorkshire as well as Derbyshire who wanted to make their feelings known, he said he was horrified to find the gates had been shut to them.
“People staying in the home who came to the gate said they couldn’t believe what they were seeing,” said Mr Poulter. “The staff were also told they couldn’t speak to us.
“We were not making a violent protest - we just wanted CISWO to rethink what they were doing and show them we are concerned.
“People like me suffered in the mines and paid out money for years so the convalescent home was somewhere to turn to in times of need. It’s the only thing we and the families who need respite care have left.
“I know people who have stayed there this year who tell me it’s not as bad as CISCWO make out - they have shown rooms with wallpaper hanging off - but I don’t believe it is anything the people of Skegness wouldn’t have got behind to help put right. I campaigned for Skegness Hospital for years as founder of Skegness Hospital Watch and I know what local people are capable of.
”It’s part of their history and they won’t want to see it go.”
A call for support for a 38 degrees campaign to save the home was featured in the Skegness Standard in August. Steven Kerry, 47, whose dad Clifford worked in the mining industry at Morton and Markham Vale pits, told reporters: “It is a place for ex-miners to go and have a holiday to recover, and do what they want to do.”
Mr Kerry said his dad Clifford, who sadly passed away 12 years ago, would have been distraught at the closure. “My dad was a miner for 45 years in Derbyshire, If he were here he would want to help fight to keep it open.”
Information listed by the Charity Commission, up to December 31, 2017, states that CISWO’s income was £3.7m and spending at £4.6m. Chris Kitchen, of the National Union of Mineworkers, said that while the retreat is still well used, CISWO should be looking to keep it open. He added: “The NUM Yorkshire area has a holiday home in Scalby outside Scarborough which costs the area to keep open, as it runs at a loss, but because it is well used and of benefit to former NUM Yorkshire area members we will continue to keep it open.”
A statement by CEO of CISWO, Nicola Didlock, said: “The decision to close the miners’ retreat has not been made lightly or without extensive consideration by the charity’s board of trustees. The home has enjoyed a seafront location in Skegness since 1939 and the home became as much a part of the everyday life of the average Derbyshire miner as any other aspect of the industry.
“However, with reducing numbers of holidaymakers each year, and the increasing costs of retaining the building to meet the needs of the client group, it is felt that closure is sadly necessary.
“We are assessing the needs of former miners who have accessed the retreat who may have issues such as ill health or a disability and will be offering them support through CISWO’s personal welfare service.”