A council says it is working to reopen a community centre after staff and users were locked out.

The Audley Centre, formerly Audley Sports and Community Centre on Chester Street, was handed over to the Jamia Ghosia mosque in 2016 as part of an asset transfer from Blackburn with Darwen Council. 

It was one of a number of community centres which changed hands and signed over to charities and community groups in a cost-cutting exercise.

Since 2017, it has been run by the Audley Centre CIC, a non-profit group, which rejuvenated the centre by hosting a range of classes and events.

However, on Tuesday morning staff and centre users were greeted with a closure order on the doors.

The centre hosts community events, weddings, classes, health sessions, football, badminton and a small gym. It also has a privately run nursery and parents only learned of the closure on Tuesday morning when they came to drop their children off.

A local councillor has called for the centre to be reopened as soon as possible. The council said they were aware of the closure and attempts are being made to have it reopened.

Lancashire Telegraph:

A sign on the front doors read: ‘Forfeiture Notice: These premises have been seized on authority of the landlord on behalf of the trustees of the Jamia Ghosia Association’.

The mosque is based directly opposite the community centre.

A mosque representative was contacted and said all queries should be directed towards the legal representatives - UK Bailiff Services Limited.

Lancashire Telegraph:

Omar Zaman, of Audley Centre, said they had been running the centre as a non-profit organisation for seven years. He said: “We are disappointed with the stance taken by the mosque.

“It is disappointing for all the users and people who use the centre on a daily basis.

“We have attempted to speak to the council over the matter too.

“We have told people that we are closed for a few days until the matter is resolved.

“There are a lot of events planned and booked for the coming days so we are unsure what we will do.”

The disagreement appears to surround 'rent' payments to the mosque. The CIC said this was meant to be a voluntary donation to the mosque with the first payment only made in 2021.

Central ward councillor Zamir Khan said he wanted to have the centre back open as soon as possible.

He said: “Whatever the disagreements between the two parties, I would like the centre to be back open as soon as possible.

“Members of the public should not suffer because of this. I have had a number of phone calls during the day over the issue.

“You cannot close a community centre. Events have been booked and classes are taking place and the centre users are suffering.”

Martin Eden, strategic director of environment and operations at Blackburn with Darwen Council, said: “The council was made aware of the Audley Sports and Community Centre closure. The centre has been run independently and successfully under lease since 2016.

“I have written to the lease holder requesting that they comply with the terms of their lease and provide the council with a timescale for re-opening the centre as soon as possible, so we can communicate this to the residents and groups who use this very popular sports and community centre.”

UK Bailiff Services Limited have been approached for comment.