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Youth club building revival a ‘once-in-a-lifetime opportunity’ for Woodbridge

just 42 EADT story
Caroline Page addresses a meeting to discuss the future of Woodbridge Youth Centre

Efforts to create a “legacy for future generations” were set in motion as groups gathered to plot the resurrection of a condemned community hub.

A 12-month target was set to draw up plans to replace Woodbridge Youth Centre, in The Avenue, near Kingston Field – used by several organisations, and for social care work, until a demolition notice was issued by Suffolk County Council last summer, due to irreparable decay and the discovery of asbestos.

The meeting was chaired by county councillor Caroline Page at St Mary’s Church Centre, where stakeholders included the Just42 charity for children and young people, which temporarily occupies a portable cabin on the same site; the Gateway Club for people with learning disabilities, and the Company of Four theatre group, which used the site for rehearsal space.

Ms Page said: “This is a chance to start mobilising people to take advantage of a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to create a legacy for young people and future generations.

“It’s fair to say the building was no longer fit for purpose. This is an opportunity to create something new and purpose-built.”

The county council agreed to not dispose of the site for a year from demolition, allowing time to “explore other community opportunities”.

Ms Page, who plans to contribute some of her locality budget to start fundraising, said 12 months remained to formulate a business plan.

She argued the current site was unrivalled for public access, had uses that could not be easily relocated, and was available on a long-term lease from the county.

District councillor Geoff Holdcroft suggested a ‘twin track’ approach – opening the possibility for developers of another site to contribute enabling money and land for wider youth provision.

Town councillor Kay Yule agreed that the current site was ideally located, but stressed that the building was entirely distinct from the community hall in Station Road, and that the intention should be to create two vibrant centres in Woodbridge. She will also propose the town council discusses leads the coordination of interested groups.

Choose Woodbridge chairman James Lightfoot said his association would discuss helping to kick-start the process, while the option of forming a community interest company is explored – opening grant opportunities unavailable via local government.

The meeting was also attended by county localities and partnerships officer Alison Wheatland, district community development officer Gillian Benjamin, and Kirsty Wilmot, of Community Action Suffolk.