CAMPAIGNERS are rallying to save a “vital” centre which provides therapy and support to people reaching the end of their lives.

St Helena Hospice recently announced plans to close its day centre in Jackson Road, Clacton.

The charity’s bosses hope to alleviate financial strain by selling the building.

It will shortly enter a planning application seeking permission to change its use into a mix of residential and leisure.

The centre has provided day therapy for end-of-life patients and bereavement support for grieving families since 2002.

It has received consistent support from fundraising groups in the town, including thousands of pounds from the popular Clacton Carnival.

Mark Jarman-Howe, chief executive of the hospice, said despite an increase in demand for its services, the charity is facing a fight to secure funds.

Should the closure go ahead, he has promised any support currently offered at the centre would be continued at different venues and locations across Tendring

Andy Wood, Clacton county councillor, has launched a bid to halt the closure.

He said: “I spoke to Mr Jarman-Howe and before we talked I thought it was a done deal and they wanted to sell it, knock it down and have it built on.

“He very much came across as someone who does not really want to lose this place, but cannot afford to have it as it is, quite simply because they haven’t got the money.

“We have to have this - we can’t expect everyone who needs the therapy, who needs support, to simply travel to Colchester.

“It shows the hospice’s presence in the town centre.

“We must save the building and we must make sure the strength of feeling is heard. Once it is gone, it is gone forever.”

The worried councillor will be at Christmas Tree Island, in Clacton town centre, from 10am until midday on Saturday collecting signatures for a petition to save the centre.

Mr Wood is already trying to think of alternate uses for the building.

“I attended a board meeting of the Essex Partnership University Foundation Mental Health Services to see if it is possible for them to work with the hospice and use that centre as an outreach facility,” he said.

“They said it was a brilliant idea. If they can’t afford to keep that building I want to look at options for how we can keep it.”