Community group forced to look for new premises

LOCATION: Fishergate Shopping Centre
LOCATION: Fishergate Shopping Centre
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A lifeline for hundreds of children and adults with neurological disorders is facing closure after its premises became unusable.

The Paediatric Awareness of Neurological Disorders Association – known as PANDA – is a community group which works with individuals and families living with neurological disorders such as epilepsy, down syndrome and spina bifida.

The help we offer changes people’s lives for the better and we are desperate for that to continue.

Sarah Carlaw

But the group is now fighting for survival as its premises at the Healthy Planet Bookshop in the Fishergate Shopping Centre is not meeting the service user’s basic needs.

Sarah Carlaw, PANDA spokesperson, said: “The help we offer changes people’s lives for the better and we are desperate for that to continue.

“In the last year we’ve expanded what we do to include adults because there was such a huge demand.

“But because there is no heating, running water and no toilets, we can’t continue to stay there.

Sarah added: “It’s hard enough to cope when you have a family member living with a neurological disorder without losing your local support group.

“Now we are having to face up to the heartbreaking decision that we may have to close for good – unless we can find new headquarters.”

PANDA has launched a campaign to find new premises such as a disused shop or office space to use, however, due to the people who attend the group, the facility must have disabled access, toilets and room for group activities to run.

Lisa, 36 from Preston, attends PANDA’s coffee mornings.

She said: “It has been fantastic for myself and my children to find somewhere fun, where we can relax and spend time together has a family.

“Losing this service would be detrimental to any family living with a neurological disorder, due to the lack of alternative support services in my area.”

Keith Mitchell, Manager of the Fishergate Centre, said: “We are sorry to hear of the problems PANDA seem to be having.

“When the Lancashire Evening Post contacted us it was the first time we had heard there has been an issue, but we are now working directly to help the charity

“Although Healthy Planet is responsible for the maintenance of the unit as PANDA’s landlord, we have sent our maintenance team in as a matter of urgency. They have resolved the issues with the water and toilet system.

“We are openly supportive of charities, and are proud of our involvement and record of working with community projects.

“We are happy to support PANDA, which does tremendous work in the community and if they want to stay in the centre, we’ll do all we can to help them.”