COMMUNITY campaigners are celebrating being handed the keys to the community centre they fought so hard to preserve.

The Friends of Westdene Green have been given a first look in The Barn after winning the lease on the site after months of campaigning.

The group is now launching a fundraising programme in order to carry out refurbishments to the venue in Brighton.

The friends group has been campaigning since November to win the lease to The Barn from owners Brighton and Hove Council.

The site had previously been home for a charity playgroup for 20 years and campaigners were worried the site might not remain a public and community venue once they had left.

The friends group, whose campaign received the backing of Brighton Pavilion MP Caroline Lucas and local Conservative ward councillors, competed with several other commercial bidders for the site before being selected in June.

During negotiations Felicity Thomas, a barrister acting pro bono on behalf of the group, highlighted a covenant dating back to 1938, which states that trade was not permitted on the land and that it must be retained for community use.

Campaigners successfully argued that by granting them the lease, the council would honour this covenant.

The group was also successful in getting asset of community value status bestowed on the venue which will help ensure its long-term future as a community venue.

Campaigners hope the barn will be used for all manner of events including craft workshops, fitness classes, group meetings and children’s birthday parties.

Rebecca Luff, co-secretary of the friends' group, said: “We were really disappointed to see it the Barn vacated at the end of last year, "I felt compelled to help make sure the community had a say in what would happen to this valuable space.

“Now, the refurbished Barn will be used for a variety of clubs and activities for all ages and abilities.

"The group has costed the running of The Barn and is confident it will be self-funding after the initial refurbishment and has already started to plan the fund-raising needed for that.”

To help raise money for the refurbishment of The Barn, the friends group is hoping to revitalise the traditional Westdene Village Fair on the Green outside The Barn on Sunday, September 25.

For more information search Westdene Village Fair on Facebook.

To volunteer to help with the refurbishment and running of The Barn visit