Crunch time for youth centre

Published on: 04 Aug 2014

A FINAL decision on whether to transform part of the old Staple Hill School into a youth centre will be taken at a meeting next month.

A consultation has revealed support for the scheme which could see rooms in the former school in Page Road revamped to include a climbing wall, skate ramps, performance space, homework clubs and a base for young people to set up new businesses.

There is also the possibility of a youth café, computer facilities and a music studio.

Councillors have provisionally earmarked £350,000 for the project but a final decision will be made when the council’s Children and Young People committee meets on September 24.

Meanwhile organisations which are keen to run the youth centre have been invited to put forward tenders.

Staple Hill councillors Ian Boulton and Shirley Potts have been pushing for a youth centre for a number of years and have warned that the facility is not a ‘done deal’. They say they will keep pushing until the funding is finally approved.

Cllr Boulton said: “We have reached an exciting stage as we have now invited organisations to consider tendering to run the building as a community facility with the aim to providing a centre for children and young people.  

“We have had expressions of interests from a handful of groups who we are working with to try and develop a business plan for how we can make the building viable given that public finances cannot be relied on in the future.  Without doubt, this is going to be our biggest hurdle, however with the active support of some great local organisations there is no reason why this cannot be overcome.”

Cllr Potts said: “It is very gratifying after years of striving to set up a youth facility in Staple Hill that these plans are now in place backed by local interest.

“The next step is to enlist the support of the members of the council’s Children and Young People committee in September as that’s when the final decision is being made.”

The old Staple Hill School closed in July 2011 and reopened in a new £7million building on the opposite side of the road in September.

Although the school’s temporary structures were demolished, the two main Victorian buildings were retained and are now home to a children’s centre, nursery and temporary primary school pupil referral centre. However, there are spare rooms, including the old school hall, which could be transformed into a youth centre.

At present youth services in the area are run from Hebron Methodist Church but the space available is far from idea.

Supporters of a new youth centre say a custom-built space would help youth workers provide a much improved service to young people.

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