Blind group to carry on

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A GARSTANG-based group for blind and partially sighted people has vowed to carry on - despite a big rent hike at its meeting room.

Fears over the future of the Garstang branch of Galloways Society for the Blind were raised when rent on the group’s meeting room was increased by 50 per cent.

The Regenda housing group – in charge of the Oak Road Sheltered Housing resident’s lounge – raised the rate from £5 an hour to £7.50 per hour recently.

A Regenda spokesman said the rise in the cost of room hire was the first increase for 10 years and was necessary given recent increases in the cost of utilities, council tax, furnishings and cleaning.

Now, following discussions, Galloways has agreed to allow the group, which currently meet once a week, to meet twice a month.

Volunteer leader, Ian Allan, who recently stepped down from his role after 17 years helping run the group, said he was relieved the group has survived despite the cost increase.

He said: “In fairness Regenda has kept the rent at a very low rate but times have changed and it has now decided to charge the going rate.

“We suggested if we meet twice a month rather than weekly we can manage the costs while providing our members with this vital service.

“There are people who live on their own with sight problems and it is nice they have somewhere to meet up, they look forward to coming.”

Mr Allan, of Hawthorn Avenue, Garstang, said: “I really enjoyed my time with the group, it has been difficult attracting members at times, but we started with six and now have 20.”

A Regenda spokesman added: “The room used by the group is the residents’ lounge belonging to the sheltered scheme at Oak Road rather than a room which is a community facility.

“Residents have agreed, as a gesture of good will, to allow groups to use the room for meetings, which does mean that during these times they are unable to use the residents’ lounge.

“Regenda residents are recharged for the cost of maintaining the lounge at this scheme and this is why we felt a review was needed.

“We hope that all of the groups which use the room will appreciate why this rise is necessary and continue to use the Oak Road residents’ lounge.”

• For information about the Galloways Society for THe Blind group contact Lorna Musgrave on 01995 605170.

• Look out in The Courier soon for a profile feature on the Garstang branch of Galloways.