THE Swindon Tamil Association hopes to re-engage locals with Park South Community Centre, after the council passed control to the organisation on Monday.

Councillors, ward officers and members of the association gathered at the centre in Cranmore Avenue to mark the official handing over of the keys.

Park South’s handover is part of the council’s policy to put local communities in control of their own community assets. The scheme aims to bring local residents together and reduce rents.

Ram Thiagarajah is president of the STA, which works to cultivate South Asian traditions. Ram has 16 years of experience in Swindon’s community and voluntary sectors, and has already brought great change to Buckhurst Community Centre in Walcot. He hopes to do the same in Park South.

“Our main aim is to give the local community the opportunity to use the facility in a manner that is beneficial to them,” he said.

“Park South is one of the more deprived areas, but we hope to allow residents to enjoy themselves at an affordable rate”.

Several organisations bid for control of the centre in a two-month process, after the council advertised the opportunity in the Swindon Advertiser last December. A board was made up of local council members and ward officers, including the council’s East Locality Lead, Nazakat Ali.

“We judged the interested organisations on criteria such as charitable status and business plan. The Swindon Tamil Association ticked all of the boxes,” he said.

Councillor Derique Montaut, (Lab, Liden, Eldene and Park South), has been involved with the centre for decades.

He said: “This building has been here for years – I was involved in the boxing club that was here in the 60s. We’ve struggled hard in the past few months. and we are pleased the Swindon Tamil Assocation has come to the rescue.

“It’s important to have a central point to enrich the community, not just residential areas. This will be a major hub that offers the opportunity for locals to meet on a regular basis”.

Councillor Richard Hurley has seen the scheme take off in other areas of Swindon.

“I’m amazed at the engagement of people in other areas. Coleview is run by the community, and it’s a thriving place.

“It’s never going to be easy but if we can engage the local people and get them involved it will absolutely work.”

The STA has been granted a seven-year lease and will continue to run existing activities, which include yoga, bingo and a senior citizen’s lunch club.