Centre of Attention


Earlier this month, over 250 residents attended a public meeting to discuss the future of Wanstead Youth Centre with Redbridge Council. Kate Sloan from the Save Our Wanstead Youth Centre campaign reports

It is clear that residents from across Redbridge are very worried about the proposal to close Wanstead Youth Centre. Approximately 1,200 people use the venue per week, including young people, vulnerable groups and the wider community. It provides a safe space for social interaction and makes an invaluable contribution to the well-being of its users, with facilities including a main hall, a large sports hall and a fully equipped music recording studio.

At the public meeting on 7 March, Mark Baigent, Redbridge Council’s Corporate Director of Regeneration and Culture, said the reason for considering the closure was due to the £2.4m required for maintenance and repairs (as outlined by a surveyor’s report dated 22 April 2022), and the £86,000 a year the centre receives in subsidies to run it.

Whilst we accept the centre does need repair, we feel this is because, sadly, maintenance and repairs have not been properly undertaken over the years. We also feel that if the centre was advertised more, it could be used to its full potential and then little or no subsidy would be required. John Cryer MP has also expressed a similar view, recently tweeting: “[Vision] do not advertise the facility as far as I can see and make it very difficult to book, unlike all their other facilities.”

Key concerns from residents who packed the venue for the meeting included:

  • Why more had not been done to maintain the centre over the years.
  • That there was no suitable alternative location or provision that accommodated users’ needs available in the borough.
  • That no work had been done to look at external sources of funding, such as grants or other investment.

Local young people also spoke passionately about the positive impact of the venue on their well-being. One centre user, Ellie, 15, asked: “Is the mental health of young people who use the centre being taken into account?” Concerned about the warnings young people receive about gangs, exploitation and mental health, she added: “This is one of the few places that holds our society together.”

The council’s proposal was to close the centre by May, so we called for a 12-month moratorium so we can engage with them and work together to secure the retention of the venue. At the time of writing, we are awaiting the council’s decision. Whatever the outcome, please get in touch if you would like to join the fight to save this valuable community facility.

Details of the council’s decision will be posted here when available.

For more information on the Save Our Wanstead Youth Centre campaign, email SaveWansteadYouthCentre@gmail.com or contact Liz Martins on 07403 649 306

To stay up to date on the campaign, join the Save Wanstead Youth Centre Facebook group, or follow the campaign on Twitter

Author: Editor