TWO residential activity centres that were threatened with closure will be kept open for future generations of children to enjoy, says Wiltshire Council, following fierce public backlash.

However proposals to move Devizes based Braeside to Lackham College in Lacock have been met with further anger from campaigners who want to see the current site kept open.

Seven bids to take over the under threat centres were submitted by charities and community groups to Wiltshire Council in recent weeks. Wiltshire College and Community First have been named as the two preferred parties to run the sites and will go through to the negotiation stage.

Both Braeside and Oxenwood will continue to be run by Wiltshire Council until January 2020, if required.

If given approval, a new purpose-built centre at Lackham agricultural college would teach children about how food is grown and farmed alongside outdoor adventure activities and overnight accommodation for 120 children.

The decision to hand over control of Oxenwood to charity group Community First was described as fantastic news by supporters. A petition against its closure gained 16,000 signatures in March.

Speaking during a cabinet meeting held in County Hall, Trowbridge Coun Brian Mathew welcomed the decision. "A decision that has come following community protest," he said.

"However with the move to Lackham, which is a higher education site, where will the magic be for children, where will access be to a nearby market town and safe canoeing? Braeside staff say it is paying its way so it seems to be about selling off a Wiltshire Council asset. Once Braeside is gone, it is gone.”

Chairman of managers at Braeside, David Borrie, added: “The council’s duty of care to its employees has been woeful. Three times the closure date has been moved back. There is clear signs of stress among the staff.”

Cabinet member for finance, Phillip Whitehead, said: “Braeside has been running at a loss for a number of years and is at breaking stage. We have balanced social benefit against financial and we have come up with a solution for the next generation for our children. We will inform staff at all stages until we come back in March. We will continue the dialogue with other bids as well as the preferred bids.”

The Braeside facility has been valued at £500,000, but Wiltshire Council has not confirmed what would happen to the site if it were to close. A formal decision over the sites will be made by the cabinet in March.

Liberal Democrat leader Ian Thorn said: “It is people power that has led us to this positive position. People challenged the council to come up with a more creative way to find a solution and this has proved to be successful.”

Campaigner for the Labour party Rachel Ross said: “We are really pleased about the proposal for Oxenwood, to think back to March it could have been sold off and then the asset would have gone. However we would like to hear more about the proposal for Lackham and Braeside.”