Chorley 'men in sheds' style mental health project shut down over concerns about unsafe use of tools by participants

The closure of shipping containers used as an activities outlet for people in Chorley by the council is causing residents who used it mental distress, say organisers.

By Emma Downey
Tuesday, 22nd March 2022, 3:45 pm

The Chorley Sheds Project on Duke Street has been closed for the past eight months by the council because of health and safety concerns and still has no date for reopening.

Those visiting the converted shipping containers, used their experience and skills such as carpentry, engineering and gardening, to fix and up-cycle house-hold items.

But the project was closed down by council officers after a site visit uncovered concerns about the safe use of equipment and tools.

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The sheds have been closed for the past eight months which has caused users mental distress

Project volunteers and users say they only found out when they turned up one day to find the site locked.

Volunteer Susan Ruff said: “We still feel that’s a pathetic excuse.

“Why has it taken them eight months to sort out?

“The whole scenario is frustrating.”

The unkempt sheds have been closed for the past eight months

Founder Phil Rustage, who launched the scheme in May 2018, said the closure has affected many people's mental health.

He added: "We have at least 14 members on a regular basis. Since they locked it up we have had phone calls with these people telling us they are struggling with their mental health as the Sheds provided an outlet for them.

"The project addressed social isolation by creating a relaxed shed-like environment for people to work in and make new friends.”

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Susan, who started out as a volunteer and has worked for there for over two years, added that it has also affected her mental health being closed this long.

"The site wasn't finished when Covid started and two workers were allowed to maintain the site before the council closed it.

"We have been open three years and have never had a problem before. They (council) have never told us what it was. Rather than just shutting it down they should have given us a list to work from.

"We have tried to get in touch with the relevant bodies to no avail.

"We are so baffled."

Since it has been closed, the sheds have been vandalised with tools to the value of £2,000 stolen.

Phil said: We have been vandalised three times now since we opened, but this time we cannot even fix the mess as it is locked up.

"A lot of people rely on Chorley Sheds. It's not fair.

"Before all this happened we were looking at being open all week as opposed to just Mondays and Wednesdays."

Susan added: "Everything has sort of went backwards.

"It's so disheartening to see the place in such a mess and knowing we cannot so anything about it."

Citing Covid as another reason for the delay in reopening, Councillor Bev Murray, Executive Member for Early Intervention at Chorley Council, said: “The Chorley Sheds Project is an asset to our local community. However, the council had no option but to temporarily close the site due to serious health and safety concerns which we are currently working to address.

“These issues have been explained to members of the project in person by council officers.

“If anyone is interested in getting involved please contact [email protected]

The initiative allows people the space to pick up any project that takes their fancy.

The shipping container, which has been refurbished for use as a garden shed, is its home – with women are welcome too.