HOSPICE bosses have vowed to meet growing demand for its services despite plans to close a day centre.

St Helena Hospice has been given the green light by Tendring Council to demolish its day centre, in Jackson Road, Clacton and replace it with 40 flats and a restaurant or shop.

While a decision has yet to be made about whether to sell the site, the hospice promises all its services will continue in the area.

Hospice chief executive Mark Jarman-Howe said there had been “unease and confusion” over the plans.

He said: “Under no circumstances will our hospice services in Clacton and Tendring close.

“We will continue to provide our day therapies, clinics and bereavement support to the community for as long as it is needed.

“Secondly, if we sell the Tendring Centre, all proceeds will be used to ensure we can continue to provide hospice care in north Essex for the long term.”

The hospice supported 1,832 people in the Tendring area last year, 200 more than they supported two years prior.

The Tendring Centre, used for therapy for patients nearing the end of their lives and bereavement support, was funded by £275,000 of charitable donations and opened in 2002.

The decision to close the centre created a fierce backlash in Clacton, especially from fundraisers who had donated thousands of pounds towards it. The centre is still open at the moment.

Denise Wretham, of Clacton, has attended several day therapy groups to help manage her chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

She said: “If I’ve had a bad week I think to myself, if I can just get to my group it’ll give me a boost.

“I meet new people there with problems too, new people who I don’t have to be frightened of if I look a bit different.

“The staff always make you feel so welcome and make everyone there so relaxed.

“I have been learning how to cope with worsening symptoms, like when I really can’t breathe I used to panic but the breathing groups have taught me coping mechanisms.

“The more encouragement I can get, the better, and St Helena is doing that.

“They are my inspiration, the lovely people there who accept me for who I am.”

Mr Jarman-Howe said: “Any savings we make in running costs from the building will be reinvested into the Tendring area to help more people like Denise, who attended day therapies to help manage the symptoms of her life-limiting illness.

“Regardless of what happens with the centre, our services will continue to run and our staff and volunteers will continue to support people through dying, death and bereavement.”

Members of Clacton Carnival said they were “appalled” that plans were put forward to demolish the purpose-built centre, which was built in 2000.

Nicky Freeman, spokeswoman for the carnival, said it has raised £22,500 towards the building and that campaigners have been left “heartbroken”.