12:00 - 21 May 2002
Charity leaders say they are "devastated" at plans to close down a Devon holiday home for multiple sclerosis sufferers.
The Echo reported yesterday that the MS Society wants to shut down its Orcombeleigh Care Hotel in Exmouth.
The closure proposal - which is expected to be formally approved in July - would result in 32 job losses. David Burgoyne, one of the founders of the holiday home, which is in Douglas Avenue, said that the announcement had taken everyone by surprise.
Mr Burgoyne, who is chairman of the Orcombeleigh support committee, said: "People with multiple sclerosis and their carers have been coming to Orcombeleigh for the last 30 years for respite, relaxation and holidays. Many have described it as a 'life-line'. They will all be devastated if Orcombeleigh closes.
"The expert and caring staff are, naturally, also feeling devastated.
"As one of the founder members who established Orcombeleigh in 1972, closure will feel to me like a bereavement.
"The national MS Society is responsible for the management of Orcombeleigh. The local support committee and league of friends provide fundraising and personal support to guests but have no responsibility for management.
"The national society did not consult with us about its proposed decision to close Orcombeleigh."
Mr Burgoyne said that contact had been made with the national charity in an effort to save the hotel. He added that it was too early to say if a fundraising appeal would be launched. The Exeter-based MS Centre South West was also critical of the decision.
Charity manager Vic Gibbins said: "We would be very sorry to see the hotel's closure. It would be a tragedy for it to close for the multiple sclerosis community.
"A lot of people in the Exeter area have used the respite facilities at the hotel, which are extremely good.
"Unfortunately, the MS Centre South West does not have the funds to be able to take over the running of the home."
Joyce Bassett, chairman of the Exeter branch of the MS Society, added: "It is going to affect many people and families - not only the people with MS, but the people who breathe a sigh of relief when their partners go into respite and they can have some time for themselves."