County councillors, debating the future of Preston Youth Zone, have decided to scrap the £8million plan.Advertisement
As a facility for young people to attend, engage and be educated, the Zone has been the centre of debate since the Conservative administration announced plans to axe the Youth Zone – despite already spending money on the project.
Many protesters gathered outside County Hall against the possible plans to axe the facility.
Read more: Preston Youth Zone looks dead in the water
In a very heated debate at County Hall, cabinet members said rising costs meant they couldn’t afford the previous plans.
They have said they will “explore with stakeholders what will work within the current environment” – adding an amendment to the recommendation by officers to scrap the Youth Zone.
It would have been situated at Preston Bus Station, which one Tory county councillor labelled a “trash can.”
Campaigners to keep the Youth Zone had mounted a passionate protest outside County Hall before the cabinet meeting.
Council leader, Geoff Driver, responded to the halt on plans. He said: “We’re disappointed that no organisations or businesses have applied to operate the youth zone, which would have aimed to provide high-quality services for young people.
“We recognise that this would have been a welcome asset for young people in the area and we’ve shown a significant and continuing financial commitment to the provision of a Preston Youth Zone for a number of years.
“Indeed, in 2012 we cleared a site on Bow Lane and set aside the necessary funds to construct a youth zone, in line with OnSide’s well-established model. However in 2014 those plans were scrapped and it was decided to erect a much more expensive youth zone on the bus station site.
“In light of increased costs and changes since the start of this project, we simply cannot commit to more spending. We’ve taken a look at the costs and the implications for the council and made our decision based on that.
“Today’s decision has given us an opportunity to extend our plans for the public space outside the bus station. We’ll now be aiming to develop this space for everyone to use and enjoy.”
Read more: Recap updates from a fiesty Lancashire County Council cabinet meeting
The youth zone would have been situated in a new stand-alone building on the former bus station apron.
The county council is now planning to extend the proposed new public space between the bus station and Tithebarn Street.
Councillor Driver added: “We’ve already carried out a major redevelopment of the bus station and multi-storey car park, which has transformed this iconic building and the surrounding area, benefiting people who use it and increasing access.
“We’re now looking to continue the improvements that have already taken place in this area of the city centre.”
Charity OnSide, who operate many different Youth Zones across the county, and Preston City Council, who the county council says it wants to work with – have reacted to the news the county council still wants to speak to ‘stakeholders’ about a potential Youth Zone in a different location.
Here’s the reaction from the Town Hall, who county councillor Driver says he wants to have a conversation with.
Deputy leader of Preston City Council councillor Peter Moss said: “I am disappointed to hear that the County Council has scrapped their current plans but pleased to hear they have not given up on Preston Youth Zone entirely. As the city council, we remain enthusiastically committed to working with the Preston Youth Zone board, Lancashire County Council and others to find the right option to meet the needs of young people in Preston.”
“I am optimistic that this is not the end of the story for Preston Youth Zone. The city council is grateful for and proud of the support and commitment that has been generated by local businesses and organisations over the past number of years to the youth of the city.
“I hope that all parties continue this work for the benefit of, and to invest in, the young people of Preston.”
A spokesperson for OnSide Youth Zones said: “We’re pleased Lancashire County Council is set to look again at how to make Preston Youth Zone a reality. We’re ready to work alongside the Council and the board of Preston Youth Zone to try and find the best way forward.
“It’s clear that there’s a lot of public support for a Youth Zone in the city and hopefully the young people of Preston, and future generations, will get the state-of-the-art community hub they deserve.”
Sir Mark Hendrick MP, who represents Preston, said: “‘I am dismayed that Lancashire County Council have scrapped plans for the Preston Youth Zone at the Bus Station as they are.
“The current administration has made it very clear that they care little about providing much needed facilities and services for young people in Preston.
“I welcome the news that a Preston Youth Zone will still be created in the future and hope that the relevant partner organisations come together quickly to build a suitable facility. However, these plans were started back in 2009 and the young people in Preston are still waiting.”
Preston Youth Zone to ‘move forward with optimism’
A spokesperson for Preston Youth Zone said: “We are delighted with the outcome of today’s council meeting. We wanted an opportunity to continue the conversation and try to find a way to make this project for the youth of Preston work.
“It is now disappointing to hear post-meeting that the council wish to reject the site of the bus station all together, which was not made clear in the meeting this afternoon. We want an opportunity to talk and find a solution. We must move forward with optimism!”
What do you think about the future of a Youth Zone? Let us know your reaction in the comments below