Spalding’s Pennygate Foundation: Please don’t shut us down

Pennygate Foundation trustee and volunteer Brenda Wickham with June Page. SG210915-117TW
Pennygate Foundation trustee and volunteer Brenda Wickham with June Page. SG210915-117TW
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Trustees of a Spalding charity fear their centre that serves as a lifeline for the homeless and jobless could be shut down.

According to South Holland District Council planning department, Pennygate Foundation is operating outside its existing planning consent.

The foundation submitted a fresh, retrospective planning application in October for an additional wooden storage building/function room and alterations to its Health and Wellbeing Centre.

But that was refused in December and now trustees say they have been warned enforcement action could follow.

Trustee Brenda Wickham (75), one of a team of unpaid volunteers, said the trust cannot go on submitting fresh planning applications because it costs hundreds of pounds and the charity exists on donations.

She said: “We don’t want to close. The volunteers will fight but only for so long. People can only stand being slapped in the face with a wet fish for so long.

“We are in an area of social deprivation yet the council are saying we are not in keeping with the area.”

South Holland and the Deepings MP John Hayes has offered to help trustees in discussions with the council.

He said: “If I can help with that in any way I will.

“I know the foundation well. I have been there a number of times. I know what important work they do with all kinds of people from the community.

“It’s an important local hub and the commitment and dedication of the people who are helping others is clear, important and praiseworthy.

“I will happily intervene, if it’s helpful to make sure that all that’s being done (at the foundation) is being done properly.

“It may well be that they need to get in discussions with the local authority to make sure that all the permissions are there and, if I can help with that in any way, I will.”

District councillors Angela Newton and Graham Dark have also offered to meet trustees to discuss the crisis.

Council concerns include the operating hours of Pennygate Foundation and use of its Get Stuffed Cafe, which it says “appears to be run on a commercial basis” that would require a special category of planning consent.

But Mrs Wickham points out the cafe provides food for those who can’t afford to pay – as well as those who can – and any proceeds are ploughed back.

She says the volunteers don’t understand the planning rules and have had help with their applications up to now.

Among its many roles, the centre helps the homeless and rough sleepers – often providing them with something to eat before they go to sleep.

“It’s not late at night,” she said. “We are not there until midnight or whatever. We were hoping to start a soup kitchen, we have collected all of the pots and pans to be able to do that, and now we get slapped with this. We just don’t understand it.”

A council spokesman said: “The Pennygate Foundation was granted a temporary three year permission in 2014 to allow use of the site as a Health and Well Being centre only.

“This expires October 23, 2017 unless a further grant of planning permission is made to allow the use to continue.

“The hours of operation are restricted to 10am-4pm Monday – Friday and 10am-12pm Saturdays, with occasional events or meetings outside of these hours to be conducted within the portable cabin to the north west of the site.

“A retrospective planning application for an additional wooden storage building/function room and alterations to Health and Well Being Centre was refused in December.

“Our planning department have written to The Pennygate Foundation setting out their options, which include further planning applications to address the temporary permission and current unauthorised structures/times of operation; removing unauthorised structures and adhering to the current conditions of the existing planning permission. Officers will provide advice and support throughout this process.”