On Tuesday I was called to a meeting at Endeavour House to be told baldly that Suffolk County Council has decided that Woodbridge’s Youth Centre (which hosts the popular youth and children’s work charity, Just42 amongst many other groups and SCC units) will close imminently.
Everyone who knows Woodbridge knows there has been some form of youth club held at the Woodbridge site ever since it was first built! (And the site has been threatened for some years – see here for details)
This is a call from me to everyone in Woodbridge to help! After years of cuts to core services, Just 42 remains the only such group left in our part of Suffolk, its irreplaceable work funded entirely by grants and donations. We cannot allow this valuable asset to be lost to Woodbridge !
As a longtime supporter of Just 42 I’m very concerned that we manage to re-house Just42 immediately in temporary accommodation so that there is no break in their valuable services. It’s also important that we start fund-raising at once so that we can rebuild the youth centre on its present site as soon as possible for all users!”
According to Just 42 Manager Caroline Rutherford, landlords SCC “told us that the building is well beyond its design life and they say they’re concerned over potential health & safety risks in the future.” Although Caroline was not “entirely surprised” that the building will eventually have to close, bearing in mind its very poor state of repair, she was “terribly shocked to be told that we have to vacate the building by the end of August or indeed -in the worst case- in the next 5 days!!”
Basically SCC seem to be saying “we’re afraid something significant over the next year might force closure at short notice’..so we thought we’d force closure at short notice now…
Extensive research by the parties most interested in the future of the Youth Centre suggests that it is ideally sited in terms of (public transport/vehicular/pedestrian) access, privacy and recreation for the wide range of groups who use it . We are very short of space in Woodbridge these days, when even gardens are being infilled. There is nowhere else that offers this perfect combination.
Worryingly, SCC sent out a Press Release (during their meeting with me!) that was inaccurately headed ‘closure of former community building’ – implying to the Suffolk media that the Woodbridge Youth Centre is no longer in use. However this building is a very current community building, hosting 11 community groups, hot-desking SCC’s integrated services, the Inclusion team, specialist service, the adoption team and workforce development and the offices of Just 42 as well as one-off bookings which run to the middle of next year.
Amazingly the release made no mention even of Woodbridge Youth Centre’s most high profile occupant – Just 42 even though it supports over 2000 children and young people in the Woodbridge area through itsrange of clubs, projects and a mentoring scheme.
As you know, I celebrated my last election by walking from Felixstowe to Lowestoft to raise funds for Just 42 because it is exceptional! From the hub in the Youth Centre, Just 42 gives support, advice and help over a wide area to encourage local young people 10-18 to succeed and fulfil their potential. And Just 42 is not only doing this well and effectively – it is doing it on a shoestring! (Details here http://carolinepage.blog.suffolk.libdems.org/2013/05/23/just-42-weve-raised-nearly-2500/ )
The precipitate sending out of SCC’s press release without informing the many groups and individuals using the building has caused and is causing extreme anxiety. Some of the stakeholders first heard the news via the radio yesterday and the learning disabled members of the Gateway Club were only alerted as they arrived today! They have used the centre for 35 years. This was an incredibly cruel and uncaring way to break the news to stakeholders!