A LAST-minute bid to ensure users of an axed children’s respite centre are guaranteed new arrangements before it closes has been unsuccessful.

Hampshire County Council will close Merrydale in Kings Worthy at the end of May, which cares for young people with learning disabilities.

Liberal Democrat councillor Jackie Porter challenged the decision made last month, known as a call-in, to ensure every parent was satisfied that alternative care plans were in place.

Cllr Porter led a team of councillors, Malcolm Wade, Gavin James, Wayne Irish and Michael Westbrook, to call in the decision.

But on Tuesday, the children and young people select committee voted not to ask executive leader member for children’s services Keith Mans to re-consider the decision.

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An eight-week consultation in September, which also considered the future of Sunbeams in Aldershot, indicated most respondents (87 per cent) had “strong concern” about the closure.

But it was given the go ahead on January 15 by Cllr Mans, which was met with shouts of “shame” from the public.

Cllr Mans asked for a regular report on whether parents had found suitable alternative accommodation, including transport.

Steve Crocker, director of children’s services, told the committee that all the families affected had been contacted and so far 22 had firm plans that they had agreed to.

Cllr Mans added: “I am very pleased with the progress we have made in the past two weeks.”

In response to concern that Merrydale would remain empty following the closure, he added: “I have a degree of sympathy for your view about abandoned buildings, it’s very annoying when we see a county council building dilapidated.

“As far as I can I will keep an eye on what happens. I want to see them used in a positive way.”

Cllr Porter said: “We are really pleased you added to the decision but it doesn’t go far enough.”

Cllr Malcolm Wade added that “cast-iron assurances” were needed. “They need to be satisfied and most of all sure that their quality of life for their children and their family will not be degraded by this change,” he said.

Amber James, head of county services, confirmed that assistance devices and facilities at other centres were of “higher quality” than at Merrydale.

following a question by chairman councillor Ray Bolton, and that existing Merrydale staff would be part of the transition process.

Cllr Marge Harvey said: “I was very impressed at the way the officers have dealt with this. They are obviously very caring. I am really happy with what they have done.”