Two years to save North Bersted Youth Centre from closure

LESS than two years are left to save North Bersted Youth Centre from closure.

The stark warning was given to a public meeting this week about the future of the building.

Matt Williams, chairman of the centre’s management committee, said plans were being compiled so it could continue as a community venture.

But it was essential everyone who was interested in keeping it alive played their part.

The centre is threatened by the county council’s decision to withdraw all its services from March 2014 as part of its cutbacks in youth service funding

“We need to get cracking,” said Mr Williams. “We have a lot of work to do in order to fulfil the requirements to get things going.

“We will be holding another meeting, for a round-table discussion, for anybody with ideas to come along to.

“There are a lot of ideas and a lot of people willing to put them forward and, hopefully, carry them with us as we go on to offer something which is sustainable and wanted and used by the community.

“But, for the future, it will not be the North Bersted Youth Centre. It will be a community centre.”

Mr Williams said he was confident the business plan being put in place would enable the centre on North Bersted Street to be different from the new community centre being built less than a mile away as part of the site six housing development.

The youth centre is in part of a former school on land which has been in public use since at least 1865.

Its main users are a youth club which opens two evenings a week, a thriving and packed pre-school of 26 young children each weekday morning and a Scout troop.

Carl Burton, the county council’s service manager for youth support and development services, said the council was targeting its youth provision at certain groups such as those not in education or jobs. This meant its network of youth centres was being cut from 60 to 16.

It was willing to hand over the North Bersted building in a community asset transfer on a minimum lease of 25 years to a new operator which would take on the running costs and maintenance for a nominal rent.

“We want to put local services in the hands of local people to meet local needs,” he said.

But the transfer would only be made if there was a sound business plan for the centre.