A LACK of finance has led to one of Whitchurch's most important community services announcing that it will close at the end of the month, ending 27 years of support.

The Beechtree Centre for Health and Wellbeing, in Claypit Street, is closing on Thursday, June 30 as the charity states it has faced unprecedented difficulties in attempting to raise funds following the lockdowns.

Trustees said it has also been unable to obtain grants from major donors leading to the charity being no longer financially sustainable.

The centre has served Whitchurch and the surrounding areas by providing school holiday meals to underprivileged children, helping individual adults return to work after a long break, youth activities and hosting programmes for the NHS.

Sheila Chase, the chairman of trustees said new volunteers came in as trustees a few months ago to try and save the charity.

She said: "The situation we inherited was grave and we redoubled efforts to obtain funding, but the huge increase in the number of organisations looking for funds has meant that the Beechtree has been unsuccessful."

Many of the groups who booked the Beechtree before Covid-19 and hired its meeting rooms have not been able to return following lockdowns and there has been a significant loss of income to the centre.

Mrs Chase said the centre faces significant debts and was not appealing for donations, which she said would not be enough to save the centre.

She explained: "We have been managing on our cash reserves and a number of smaller donations from local people and organisations.

"But now we're about to face significant debts.

"Despite trustees donating their own money to the charity and putting in a considerable amount of our time, we have been unable to rescue the Beechtree."

Mrs Chase said people wanting to donate money were kind and well-meaning.

The trustees are working with other organisations to ensure some services, including the community cars programme continues.

The chair of trustees said the closure had a terrible impact on both trustees and employees.

She added: "Trustees and employees are all deeply upset by the situation and are navigating the difficult close-down procedures.

"In particular, we feel terribly saddened for the five staff who are employed by us.

"The Trustees and staff wish to thank all those who have contributed to the centre."

While the Beechtree will close its doors on June 30, phone lines will stay open in the first half of July.

To find out more you can visit https://www.beechtreecentre.org/ or contact them on 01948 258220.