CAMPAIGNERS fighting to keep an overnight children’s respite centre open held a demonstration in Winchester city centre to garner support for their cause.

Hampshire County Council is proposing to close Merrydale on Church Lane in Kings Worthy, which cares for young people with learning disabilities.

The group of families and friends marched up the High Street and collected more than 700 signatures, ending at the Hampshire County Council offices.

An eight-week consultation was held in September on the possible closure, which also considered the future of Sunbeams in Aldershot.

As of March 2017 there were 28 users of Merrydale and 24 members of staff.

Catherine Spencer, from Horton Heath, whose 15-year-old daughter Molly uses the centre, said: “Merrydale is an amazing place. The team who work there are very special and have developed a great relationship with our daughter.

“We entrust them with her and know she is being well looked after. A lot of the staff have worked there for many years and have great expertise.

“The building was built in the 1970s but has a welcoming child-friendly feel and has a lovely outside space. They have all the equipment which is needed to help to care for our daughter and the other children who use the centre.

“Our daughter has Angelman Syndrome. She needs help with all aspects of daily life and has been having overnight stays at Merrydale since she was eight. She loves it there and is always there with friends she knows from school and is enjoys the chance to socialise with them.

“The whole family benefits from Merrydale. Molly enjoys a fun time with her peers, her siblings have more attention from us and can do activities which we could not normally do and we get some rest and sleep to recharge our batteries.

“We have been offered Basingstoke as one option which is too far to travel for us and many families. We need a local centre and Merrydale provides this.

“It was lovely to have so much support and positive comments from those who stopped to talk to us and sign our petition. Our petition is on and we have more than 6,000 signatures online

“We have also had a very positive meeting with Mims Davies MP for Eastleigh and Hampshire County councillor Judith Grajewski. They are supporting us in this fight to stop Merrydale from closing and to keep local respite provision.”

The county council have said neither Merrydale or Sumbeams is a purpose-built care home for children with disabilities and to undertake further adaptations would be at a considerable cost.

Should the two homes close, the county council also say they would be able to reduce costs by around £450,000 per year on the upkeep of buildings and facilities.