By Kris Jepson
A community hub called Shildon Alive has become so popular it now needs bigger premises to cater for high demand.
The drop-in centre is a St John's Church community project and provides several services to the County Durham town, including advocate support, education and skills courses, addictions services, housing sessions, food banks, a credit union and gardening skills.
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Paula Nelson runs Shildon Alive and says she has asked the NHS if the group can lease out a nearby health centre building, which has been empty since January and, which she says, only had one room in use for over a year.
She claims the NHS Property Services were reluctant to lease the property and recently put the building on the market for auction. The building will be auctioned off on the 15 February.
We could fill it with community work. We could fill it with social enterprise. We've got a credit union that's bursting at the seams, the place has a counter. It would just be an amazing community building and my frustration is that we don't have enough time to fundraise.
Paula Nelson says the group would need to raise at least £100,000 to bid for the property at the auction, but so far has only raised 1 per cent of that amount by crowdfunding.
The NHS Property Services told ITV News it cannot lease out the property because it is against policy.
We have a clear remit to deliver best value on the sale of surplus property for the NHS, so that we save costs and allow the sales proceeds to be reinvested in the NHS. All of our sales are handled in an open and transparent way. While we do offer other public bodies the opportunity to lease or acquire surplus property before they are placed on the open market, we cannot sell ‘off market’ to non-public sector organisations. A sale by public auction offers anyone with an interest in the property an equal opportunity to bid and we would encourage any interested party to do so.