COMMUNITY backlash against a proposal to close outdoor education centres Braeside and Oxenwood has been praised as playing a key part in making sure the centres doors could now stay open.

Wiltshire Council Phillip Whitehead said that demonstrations urging the council to re think plans to close the sites meant that charities and organisations stepped forward to take up the popular activity centres in Marlborough and Devizes.

Oxenwood in Marlborough is in the final stages of being taken over by charity Community First and Braeside could fall into the hands of Classes Abroad, a local family run company in Grittleton.

Both sites are now just weeks away from being taken over by community groups keen to keep the centres open for schools, scouts groups and children's clubs.

Speaking to cabinet members on Tuesday he said: “It is ironic that when we originally tried to find organisations to take these sites on, we couldn’t find anybody.

"It was the publicity that had people coming out and keen to take them on that allowed us to get to this second phase. It is entirely correct, if you don’t have that debate we wouldn’t have raised the awareness.

“Wiltshire Council has been accused of selling off the silver but we have taken significant social value into consideration to let the premises go at a lower value than we normally would.

"Legally we can do that, when we can show there is a social value. Continuing outdoor education for children in the county allows that to happen."

He added that staff at the centres will keep their jobs as part of the change, with all roles moving under Community First and Classes Abroad care for Oxenwood and Braeside respectively.

Chair of the Children's Scrutiny Committee Jon Hubbard praised the move to save the centres and said: "I am looking forward to the two centres changing hands and what they can offer the community."