The closure of Bradford on Avon’s Youth Centre on August 16 could be halted by the community’s own plans to take on the building, with the town council offering up to £500 to keep it open for the town’s teenagers during the summer holidays.
Representatives from the town council, Fitzmaurice Primary School governors, the area board, Youth Advisory Group, community groups and sports clubs gathered in St Margaret’s Hall on Thursday to discuss what they could do to prevent the closure.
Town councillor Laurie Brown said: “As soon as a building closes, in my experience it is not long before the boards go up, the grass grows and developers come along.
“We have to get together as a town and not let it close. Don’t shut that door.
“Let us have a go and we will find a way to do it.”
Kevin Sweeney, a senior manager from Wiltshire Council’s integrated youth service, answered questions regarding the youth services and said: “The decision to close the building is nothing to do with the youth services. It is separate.
“Technically there is no reason why because we aren’t there it can’t be used. But how do you manage the building?
“If other people take responsibility of the building, the question is who is the person responsible for health and safety and making sure the building is safe?”
Rosemary Brown, Wiltshire Councillor for Bradford on Avon North, said:
“Because of the time constraint, the important thing is we have to make sure the boards do not go up in September. It is the next steps I am really concerned about because of the lack of time.”
Fitzmaurice School’s governors are now to ask Wiltshire Council if they can take on the building.
Their chairman Shane McCracken said: “We care about the community, we are part of it.
“We can make use of the centre as well. As a school we are growing and always in need of more space.
“I am told the running costs are £20,000 a year. As a school we couldn’t fork that out. We would be looking to see how we could run the centre more efficiently. We need to find a model that doesn’t drain finances.”
The meeting also emphasised encouraging people to join existing groups in the town, such as sports clubs and the Preservation Trust.
Simon Relph of the Preservation Trust said: “It is a desperately unattractive move by Wiltshire Council. A cut in services is inevitable but I don’t understand why the building couldn’t be kept on for others to take on and manage it.”
The town council has already decided to take action, and Cllr Alison Craddock, deputy mayor and chair of leisure youth and arts committee, read the three decisions made at last Tuesday’s full council meeting: that after a consultation with Fitzmaurice governors, scouts, the U3A and other interested stakeholders the council explore the possibility of community use of the centre l to spend up to £500 if required to keep the centre open during August; to ask Wiltshire Council if the town council can be key holders in the short term until permanent arrangements are made.
Jim Lynch, of the Bradford on Avon Community Area Network, closed the meeting reassuring people that members of the town council, Wiltshire Council, Area Board, BoACAN, Fitzmaurice governors, YAG and groups who use the centre, would be holding urgent talks to get something done.
He added: “The transition has been grievously mishandled. I believe there is a lot to play for.”