A COMMUNITY society is stepping in to breathe new life into an abandoned Bournemouth education centre. 

The Hengistbury Head Outdoor Centre (HHOEC) has endured funding problems since 2021 when its former operator Brockenhurst College pulled out. 

The same year, BCP Council took direct ownership of the centre, however, the main building was deemed “unsafe” for use.

It has not been open since March 2020 when the Covid pandemic hit. 

But now, a group of residents are hoping to breathe new life into the facility. 

Bournemouth Echo: Hengistbury HeadHengistbury Head

Bill Howlett, a director at Hengistbury Head Outdoors, said the ‘community benefit society’ has been formed to formally work with the council to secure the “long-term use and viability” of the HHOEC. 

He said he wants it to be a “fantastic community-run asset” and that it will be managed by a soon-to-be-launched membership through the issuing of member shares. 

Mr Howlett added: “We want to work with BCP Council, the existing users of the centre, and the wider community, to fully revitalise this great local asset. 

“BCP Council have a formal process for Community Asset Transfers, and over the next few months, we will be working through this process with them. 

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“In the meantime, we as a group hold regular open meetings for the community, the next such supporters meeting will be on January 22, 2024. 

He added: “The founding team behind the society are a group of local residents with a breadth of business experience and a passion for the harbour and all it offers.” 

He said more plans will be revealed in the future.

A BCP Council spokesperson said: “We are having ongoing discussions with the Hengistbury Head Outdoors group regarding ideas on how the site might be managed by the community in the future.” 

According to the HHOEC, in its last operational year, the education centre was used by 75 schools and handled more than 10,000 school sessions and 5,000 public sessions for adults and young people. 

The centre first opened in 1964 as the Marine Training Centre before the name change in the 1980s. 

Brockenhurst College had said it could not afford to run the centre college as it was “unable to absorb ongoing financial losses”. 

When it was open, the centre was used mostly for water sports.