Citizens Advice agrees deal to buy Weston-super-Mare building to secure charity’s future

Citizens Advice chief officer Fiona Cope with staff and volunteers outside the former 1 in 4 People

Citizens Advice chief officer Fiona Cope with staff and volunteers outside the former 1 in 4 People building. Picture: MARK ATHERTON - Credit: Archant

Citizens Advice North Somerset (CANS) is set to move to a new base in a deal which will secure the service’s future and help it ‘move into the 21st century’.

The charity has been looking for new premises after North Somerset Council bought its home, the Badger Centre in Wadham Street, in 2016.

The authority agreed to extend the charity’s lease – which originally ended in April 2018 – for a further 12 months.

CANS explored moving its main office to empty venues in Waterloo Street and The Boulevard, but both options fell by the wayside due to spiralling costs.

Now the charity plans to buy 39 Oxford Street – the former home of mental health charity 1in4 People.

Chief officer Fiona Cope said: “We have been working really closely with 1in4 People.

“The charity has not closed but its services have ended and it has agreed to sell its building to us.

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“The biggest benefit is it will give us security, we can manage it, reduce our outgoings and in 10 years time we will not have a mortgage to pay.

“From our clients’ perspective, it will make it a more central and visible location, and we have an opportunity to move into the 21st century in terms of our digital services.”

The building will provide seven private interview rooms, a training room and office space for 90 volunteers and 25 paid staff.

A fundraising campaign to raise £250,000 to buy the building and carry out necessary work has been launched.

The installation of a lift is likely to be the biggest expense at the Oxford Street site, potentially costing up to £100,000.

Fiona added: “We would like the work to start in January at the latest so our hope is to have purchased the building and raised a percentage of the £250,000 to do the first phase of work.

“We have raised £68,000 so far and that is enabling us to put a deposit down and to raise a mortgage to purchase the building.”

A number of charitable organisations have donated to the campaign while North Somerset Council has given £25,000 towards the total.

In 2017-18, CANS helped more than 5,000 people with more than 11,000 issues.

Click here to donate to the campaign.