Liz Martins from the Save Our Wanstead Youth Centre campaign group welcomes the council’s new plans for the venue’s future, but explains why their work is far from over
Redbridge Council’s undertaking not to demolish Wanstead Youth Centre for housing and retain it as publicly owned property was welcomed by all last month. However, Save Our Wanstead Youth Centre campaigners requested more information, particularly the full business case and details of how the decision to create an education hub and youth centre complies with the council’s statutory duties to provide youth services.
We also asked if the consultation is to be meaningful this time round. The council should comply with its legal and moral obligations to consult when proposals are in their formative stage, with a view to reaching agreement.
At the council meeting, the cabinet shockingly confirmed the centre would close from 15 October with no commitment on when it will reopen. Closing without a firm, or even tentative, start date for building works not only deprives the community of the services and facilities but leaves the site open to vandalism, while the council also loses out on vital income.
Most of the people who spoke at the meeting, including four young people (Beth, Charis, Lily and Zak), asked the council to keep the centre open while plans are firmed up and a community forum and partnerships are established, as per their standing orders. The intent is “to bring the council closer to the local community.” Regrettably, these pleas fell on deaf ears, contrary to the council leader’s undertakings.
We believe the closure will be premature, as it will take months, if not over a year, to develop plans, secure funding and complete the works. We have asked to meet with the council leader to discuss options for interim arrangements and counter proposals.
Other speakers challenged the performance of Vision’s management of the youth centre, particularly from a financial perspective over at least the past five years. Our own calculations show the venue could have been generating three to four times as much income as Vision has achieved. No financial breakdowns were provided in the council’s report to substantiate the alleged income and expenditure levels now being quoted, making it impossible to submit counter proposals. Very importantly, no evidence has been provided to substantiate the council’s statement that the centre is not financially viable. We therefore requested that the council scrutinise Vision’s management.
We hope the leader’s assurances that “we owe it to you to get a centre up and running as soon as possible” prove to be accurate.
Wanstead Youth Centre is located at 144 Elmcroft Avenue, Wanstead, E11 2DB. For more information on the Save Our Wanstead Youth Centre campaign, visit wnstd.com/sowyc or call 07403 649 306