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£2.9m youth centre is practically unused
11:00am Thursday 20th September 2012 in News
A £2.9MILLION youth centre has been virtually abandoned, just two years after it was built.
The Shoebury Youth Centre, in Delaware Road, Shoebury, was opened by Countdown star Rachel Riley amid a huge fanfare in July 2010.
Now its facilities, which include a recording studio, computer room and climbing wall, have been left to rot as it became a haven for teenage louts and vandals.
Critics have branded its decline an “appalling condemnation” of Southend Council, which slashed funding for the centre during last year’s budget cuts.
Mike Assenheim, an Indepen-dent councillor for Shoebury, said: “It is a tragedy it has come to this. This is a brilliant facility which has simply not been utilised in the right way.”
Graham Longley , the leader of Southend’s Liberal Democrats, said: “To my mind, this is an appalling condemnation on this council.
“The whole youth service needs looking at desperately.”
Teenagers in Shoebury spent two years drawing up plans for the youth centre, which was funded by the Big Lottery Fund, in collaboration with Connexions.
When it opened, the building featured regular volunteering workshops, band rehearsals and a restaurant run by the YMCA.
As well as the climbing wall, computer room and recording studio, the centre also includes a dance studio, sports hall and a garage for youngsters to practise car repairs.
But the recording studio and computer room have now been permanently locked to protect them from vandals, while councillors claim the other facilities are rarely used.
Roger Hadley , a Tory councillor for Shoebury, said: “The restaurant closed down more than a year ago. I have never seen the garage used, the dance studio is rarely occupied and there’s often only two or three youths in the entire building. It really is a waste.”
Critics blamed much of the centre’s decline on its association with the Renown, a school which deals with troublesome youngsters, as well as the council’s funding cut-backs. The authority now only shells out for activities for “vulnerable” youths, relying on volunteers to run sessions for other teenagers.
Mr Assenheim said: “Rightly or wrongly, there is a perception the centre is only for a certain type of youth.
“Parents don’t want to send their children there.”
James Courtenay, Tory councillor responsible for youth services at Southend Council, said: “Rest assured, the local authority has not been sitting idly.
“I have visited the centre and we have been in talks about the way forward. I am happy to talk to anyone who is willing to help this situation, because clearly it could be improved.”
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