A KEY outdoor learning facility in Upton Warren has been saved from the axe after council chiefs agreed it could be run by a private firm.

Upton Warren Outdoor Education Centre, which is owned by Worcestershire County Council, will now be run by Rock UK.

The same firm, which runs a dozen similar ventures around the country, will also be handed the outdoor education centre in Malvern. Another company, Acorn Adventure, will take on a centre at Llanrug in Wales.

The three council sites are being handed to the two private firms which have guaranteed to “invest in the facilities” and keep them open. They were all in danger of closure unless new operators were found.

Between them the three facilities are due to lose £337,000 this year, a gap which until now has been met by Worcestershire’s taxpayers.

Under the deal for the sites in Malvern and Upton Warren, Rock has pledged to retain all staff and take on the ongoing maintenance costs, as well as pay nominal lease fees. The contract will start from April and the lease will run for 25 years.

A deal is still being thrashed out for Llanrug. However, once finalised, it is expected to start at about the same time.

The centre offers a range of outdoor play activities for school-age youngsters.

Councillor John Campion, localism and communities cabinet member, said: “This protects outdoor education for the children of Worcestershire.

"It’s not perfect, but it’s a damn sight better outcome than we would have had if we’d had taken an earlier decision for closure. This is a service where we’ve taken the steps necessary to protect it.”