St John Ambulance to close Brierley Hill base after 125 years
St John Ambulance is to close its base in Brierley Hill after 125 years - sparking fears for the future of the service in the town.
The long-standing centre in Bent Street has been put up for sale and volunteers will now have to deliver life-saving training at a community centre instead.
Dwindling usage of the centre over recent years is thought to be behind the move. Invaluable first aid and medical training in Brierley Hill over the years has helped people go on to have careers as paramedics, GPs, nurses and police officers.
St John celebrated 125 years in the town in earlier this year. The base was rebuilt in 1997 after a £100,000 fundraising drive and reopened by Princess Margaret. It is due to close for the final time next month.
Training leaders have been left shocked by the decision from the charity's headquarters in London and are now concerned for the future of St John in Brierley Hill. The centre is believed to be on the market for £150,000.
Youth leader Lee Batham said children who use the Bent Street building have been able to secure Pensnett Community Centre for sessions but adults had not yet found anywhere to go.
The venue was regularly hired out to other groups but usage has dropped in recent times. Around 80 children currently receive first-aid training on Fridays.
The 42-year-old, from Pensnett, who has been involved with St John since 1993, said: "The building doesn't get used often enough. They didn't give us any chance to appeal. It went down like a lead balloon.
"A lot of people see it as part and parcel of Brierley Hill and now it's gone.
"It used to be used six nights a week but over the last 12 to 18 months it has gone down."
Mr Batham said St John would continue in Brierley Hill but fears a loss of a main base could prove to be a major issue.
He said: "We are still attached to St John. Nothing other than the address is changing.
"But now we have lost our unit we haven't got an identity. I hope it doesn't affect the youth coming through; we have got a fantastic group of kids.
Philip Walker, Estate Programme Manager for St John Ambulance said: "We are reviewing all properties across the country to ensure that as a charity we make best use of our resources.
"As a result of this review a decision has been made to close the Brierley Hill building. However, this doesn’t mean the local volunteer group will disband.
"We engaged with our volunteers who decided to continue to meet in a local community centre, and additionally, they will have full use of our recently refurbished facilities in Dudley which is just 2.5 miles away.
"We remain committed to providing first aid in and around Brierley Hill and are glad that we can continue to meet and serve the community."
St John Ambulance also has training centres in Wolverhampton, Dudley, West Bromwich and Walsall.