Heritage centre thrown a £25,000 lifeline

Date: Friday 22nd June 2018
Centre manager John Weir and trustees’ chairman Jonty Rostron watch students Kian Nicholson and Jamie Rooke work on a tractor engine.
Centre manager John Weir and trustees’ chairman Jonty Rostron watch students Kian Nicholson and Jamie Rooke work on a tractor engine.

A LIFELINE grant of £25,000 has been awarded to Appleby Heritage and Training Centre by a charity which was set up by a former vicar of the town.

The Norben Trust, founded by Rev Peter Norton who lived in Appleby for 14 years when he was vicar of St Lawrence’s Church, is a grant-giving charity which has focused on helping the town get back on its feet since it was hit by serious flooding.

Mr Norton, who is chairman of trustees and treasurer of the charity, said Appleby was a historic town in need of bright ideas for the future and the heritage and training centre was a perfect vehicle to help it get where it needed to be.

The future of the centre, which is next to Appleby railway station, had been threatened following education funding cuts and the withdrawal of a proposed takeover by the Oaklea Trust — but it is now back firmly on the right track.

Jonty Rostron, chairman of trustees, said: “The heritage centre is a unique training facility that is highly valued locally. With public transport being sparse, long and expensive, young people in the Upper Eden Valley find it well nigh impossible to get to the further education colleges, so we fulfil a vital service.”

He said the grant had been gratefully received by the centre, which is now open and recruiting both students and apprentices for September.

Founded in 1996 to provide training in engineering and other vocational skills to unemployed adults in the Upper Eden valley, the centre had established a strong working relationship with the grammar schools at both Appleby and Kirkby Stephen.

Mr Rostron said that although the centre had never been flush with money, it had always been able to keep its head above water until changes in central government funding to schools had gradually diminished its number of students.

“Appleby Heritage Centre provides the only post-16 training in the Upper Eden Valley for school leavers. Cuts in funding have meant that young people find it very difficult and expensive to travel to so-called nearby further education colleges,” he said.

“To fill the difference in income, Appleby Heritage Centre embarked on a programme of developing apprenticeships, which have been successfully delivered through a sub-contract from Carlisle College.”

However, the success of the apprenticeship programme meant that working with the heritage centre was threatening to affect the college’s resources and for a time it looked as though they would not be able to continue the contract.

Thanks to the intervention of Rory Stewart, MP for Penrith and the Border, with both the college and the Department for Education, the centre has now been able to negotiate a new sub-contract with the college.

The centre, which also delivers adult education in Upper Eden covering a wide range of shorter courses for adults, is about to publish details of what will be available from August.

Mr Rostron added they would be pleased to hear from anybody with new ideas about courses which could be run, and tutors to run them, as the centre was now recruiting students and apprentices for the next academic year.