Preston Youth Zone looks dead in the water

Posted on - 1st August, 2018 - 10:21pm | Author - | Posted in - Politics, Preston City Centre, Preston News
A new view of the Youth Zone standing to one side of the Bus Station
The Preston Youth Zone standing to one side of the Bus Station

Preston’s proposed Youth Zone looks set to be scrapped.

Left with spiralling costs and no one wanting to run the building it is likely Lancashire County Council will abandon the project by next week.

The county council in April this year increased the amount anyone running the Youth Zone, which was due to be built near the Bus Station, would need to contribute to £1.5million more than planned. The youth offending team was also going to be co-located in the building.

This led to no companies or organisations coming forward to bid for the tender, including the charity OnSide who had been lined up to run it and operates Youth Zone’s across the county.

A report to the county council’s cabinet recommends withdrawing from the scheme although this will leave the taxpayer footing a bill of more than £1million to architects, construction firms and other partners involved in the Youth Zone.

Read more: Preston Bus Station’s grand reopening after revamp

Council offices are recommending to councillors they take the £5.9million allocated for the building, on the Bus Station’s western apron, and reinvest this in making the western edge of the Bus Station into a new public square.

The report outlines how scrapping the Youth Zone would incur a bill of £1.2million, with OnSide saying they will be invoicing the county council for development costs committed so far as part of the total compensation.

Another view of the Youth Zone alongside the Bus Station
Another view of the Youth Zone alongside the Bus Station

The county council would then spend £1.25million on the revamp of the western side of the Bus Station, leaving it with £3.4million of capital funding left which was due to be spent on the Youth Zone. There would also be a saving of £150,000-per-year in not making a contribution to whoever was taking on running the building.

Read more: Bus Station visitors will be charged for using the toilet

What the county council said

Geoff Driver, leader of the county council, said: “We’re disappointed that no organisations or businesses applied to operate this youth zone, which aims to provide high-quality services for young people.

“We’ve looked carefully at our options for the project, in order to decide what happens next.

“The redevelopment of the bus station has already transformed this iconic building and the surrounding area, benefitting people who use it and increasing access.

“Any decisions that are made by the Cabinet will need to continue the improvements that have already taken place in this area of the city centre.”

The officer’s report is due to be discussed at the next cabinet meeting on Thursday 9 August.

Read more: Preston Youth Zone chairman is fuming about Lancashire County Council

What OnSide charity said

A spokesperson for OnSide Youth Zones, said: “It was a difficult decision for us to make, but having fully evaluated the tender document, we’ve decided not to submit a response.

“Naturally, we’re hugely disappointed not to progress further with the project, but a number of the tender’s requirements are not compatible with OnSide Youth Zones’ funding and operating models.

“These models have been key to establishing a successful and sustainable network of 10 Youth Zones across the UK, so we feel it’s important to maintain our consistent and proven approach.

“There’s been a lot of enthusiasm and hard work over many years to bring an OnSide Youth Zone to Preston and I’d like to thank all those in the community who have supported our endeavours.”

What Labour had to say

Former leader of Lancashire County Council, when it was under a Labour administration, Preston South East county councillor Jennifer Mein said: “The proposals are very, very, disappointing – though not surprising.

“The Tories have always lacked any commitment to supporting the redevelopment of the Bus Station, including the Youth Zone – which should have been the long promised flagship project which Preston’s young people deserve.

“Young people are being failed – yet again – by the Conservative administration, services to early years and families have also been cut due to the Government’s austerity policy.

“The Youth Zone project is a great opportunity to work with partners to provide a much needed facility for the young people of Preston and the surrounding area. With a will, and some decent negotiating skills, I’m sure an agreement could be reached.”

Leader of Preston City Council councillor Matthew Brown told Blog Preston: “The Youth Zone facility would further the regeneration of the city centre put on hold for so long following the collapse of the Tithebarn scheme.

“It would also develop children and young people and provide access to essential services they need. We would ask Lancashire County Council to delay taking this decision and enter into discussions with relevant partners to explore further how to secure a Youth Zone facility for young people in Preston.”

What options are available to the county council?

– Put it back out to tender

The tender period ran from mid-April to early June, officers say they could put it back out and see if anyone comes forward but this is ‘unlikely to yield a response’. A total of ten organisations expressed an interest in the original pitch.

– Put it back out to tender with different terms and conditions

The length of the lease, the co-location of the youth offending team and the £2.6million required in development costs were all identified as stumbling blocks. Councillors could choose to vary the terms and conditions and see if anyone bites.

Read more: IKEA pull out of Cuerden development

– Approach interested organisations directly

No organisations who were interested say they could make a viable business case to operate the building with the current plans and terms

– Withdraw from the project

Officers have recommended this is the action the county council takes.

You can read the full report to the cabinet here.

Preston’s doomed Youth Zone – how it’s unfolded

A view of the Youth Zone from the Ringway
A view of the Youth Zone from the Ringway

2009 – The idea of a Youth Zone in Preston is first put forward by Lancashire County Council

March 2013 – Plans for how the Youth Zone will look when it was proposed for Bow Lane/Marsh Lane, near County Hall, were unveiled as work began on clearing the site

An original plan for the Youth Zone in Bow Lane

An original plan for the Youth Zone in Bow Lane

May 2013 – diggers are on site, knocking down the old Weights and Measures office on the proposed Youth Zone site

October 2014 – the former Labour administration in County Hall announces Preston Youth Zone will not be built at Bow Lane, instead it will be part of a multi-million revamp of the Bus Station

May 2015 – More than 90 entries are submitted for the design of the Youth Zone at the Bus Station site

Read more: These were all the designs that didn’t make it for the Youth Zone

July 2015 – Five design proposals for the Bus Station revamp and the Youth Zone are unveiled, and the public are asked to vote. OnSide are revealed as working closely with the county council and providing advice on the proposed Youth Zone.

Jeremy Glover MBE from OnSide tells Blog Preston: “Preston is lucky to have such a perfect location. All the young people in the county can get on a bus and be here in no time. That’s how they get around.”

More than 4,000 votes are cast by the public for their favourite design during the consultation.

August 2015 – It’s revealed New York-based architect John Puttick has the winning design for the Youth Zone and restoration of the Bus Station

May 2016Amended designs for the Youth Zone are released, following feedback the building would be ‘too close’ to the grade-II listed Bus Station. It reduces the size of the Youth Zone too.

OnSide come out in defence of the revised design, with chairman of the charity Guy Topping saying: “It was important for us to work closely with all stakeholders so that the final design has the best chance of securing planning consent and delivers the quality and range of facilities that Preston Youth Zone is determined to provide.”

September 2016 – Planning application is formally lodged for the revised Youth Zone

December 2016 – Lancashire County Council announce work on the Youth Zone is due to begin in September 2017 and it will be ready in 2018

Former leader of the county council, Labour councillor Jennifer Mein, said at the time: ” “We’re delighted that we’ve got approval for this exciting project, which will provide a major new space for young people.”

July 2017 – OnSide ask Prestonians to vote for the name of the Youth Zone, with two options – The Hub or The Quad.

February 2018 – Procurement process was due to begin, but is delayed by Lancashire County Council which is now a Conservative administration following the election result in May 2017.

April 2018 – It’s revealed the cost of the Youth Zone has increased by nearly £3million and work is nowhere near starting

August 2018 – Lancashire County Council’s cabinet receives a recommendation from their officers to withdraw from the Youth Zone project

What do you think about the Youth Zone’s future? What should be done? Let us know in the comments below

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