TRIBUTES were paid to the fund-raising skills of the public as the new District Scout headquarters was officially opened.
Two years after the previous building was destroyed in an arson attack, hundreds turned out for the ceremony as the new £495,000 building on Heyhouses Lane, St Annes was officially opened by the Scouts’ UK Chief Commissioner Wayne Bulpitt.
It proved an emotional occasion for Fylde Scouts’ veteran president Tom Westall, who had performed the ground-breaking ceremony for the new two-storey building and was reduced to tears when asked by the Express for his thoughts.
“It’s wonderful – people have been so generous and we are so grateful for the way they rallied round to help us build this marvellous facility,” said Mr Westall, who played a key role in establishing the original HQ more than 40 years ago.
More than £236,000 –including £24,000 through a still-ongoing buy-a-brick appeal – has been raised by the public towards the cost of the two-storey building, which includes 60 beds and a host of state-of-the-art facilities, with insurance payments also contributing to the total.
The headquarters, constructed in a matter of months by J Wareing and Son of Wrea Green, is already booked up for use by youth groups from all over the country for every weekend up to the end of the year and beyond.
Among the guests for the opening ceremony was Fylde Mayor Coun Heather Speak, who said the public reaction to the fund-raising drive was a great example of the Fylde’s community spirit.
“It just shows what can be achieved by everyone working together,” she said.
“We are all so proud of everyone who helped towards making this happen.
St Annes Town Mayor Coun Angela Jacques was also among the guests at the ceremony and, having been involved in Guiding or more than 30 years, she was especially delighted to see the new facility officially opened.
“What a transformation from the sadness of two years ago,” she said. “It is wonderful to have such facilities here in St Annes.”
Fylde Scouts District Commissioner Mike Smith said: “It’s superb.
“So many have contributed to help create this magnificent headquarters.”
Fylde Scouts chairman Jack Ledger, who prompted ironic laughter when he started his speech of introduction with fire drill instructions, said: “Back in 2010 as we looked at the ruins of the old headquarters, we never imagined we would be in this situation today. We are all so proud and delighted.”
In performing the opening ceremony, Mr Bulpitt said: “It’s great to see the spirit and passion this area has for its Scout headquarters.
“Local people coming together is what the Scouts is about. It’s about making a difference.”
He unveiled a plaque incorporating the Fylde Scouts’ new badge, which features a phoenix as a symbol of rebirth and renewal.
The new building is the centrepiece of a host of top-class facilities at the Heyhouses Road site, which have long attracted groups of Scouts and other youth organisations to the Fylde.