Shropshire Council accused of 'disowning' young people over youth centre

Shropshire Council has been accused of “disowning” young people after failing to provide assurance that it would not sell off a purpose-built youth centre.

The Lynch children are among those to have protested Shropshire Council's restrictions on Ludlow Youth Centre
The Lynch children are among those to have protested Shropshire Council's restrictions on Ludlow Youth Centre

Concerns have been voiced over the future of Ludlow Youth Centre after the council imposed Covid-related restrictions limiting the number of people that can use the building to just three – meaning it can no longer be used for youth clubs and other group activities.

The authority says the move is down to current Covid safety guidelines relating to building ventilation and does not necessarily represent a permanent closure.

But Ludlow East councillor Tracey Huffer challenged the decision at a meeting of the council’s cabinet, saying she feared the decision marked the beginning of the end for the centre.

Councillor Huffer said: “Youth providers in Ludlow have been informed that the foyer area of Ludlow Youth Centre can only be used for a maximum of three people.

“With the winter approaching, this will bring an end to current youth club activities as they cannot be held outdoors in winter weather.

“It will also leave Ludlow Young Health – a mental health and wellbeing support project – without a home.

“Children are back at school. They are playing sport and engaging in social activities both indoors and outdoors. They are allowed to cram into cinemas.

“Ludlow Youth Centre is entered through wide double doors and arguably has more ventilation than most venues.

“Yet, Shropshire Council has declared that it is unsafe for youth activities.”

Councillor Huffer said this was despite the fact that offices within the building – which were used as music and ‘break-out’ rooms connected with the youth centre until the council re-purposed them in 2014 – have been deemed safe for staff to use.

She asked what government regulations were being relied upon by the council in judging the building unsuitable for youth activities, and what other council-owned buildings were subject to similar restrictions.

Councillor Huffer further asked what the youth centre had been valued in the council’s most recent accounts, and whether a guarantee could be given that it would not be sold “other than as a building that will continue as a youth centre, during the current administration”.

Councillor Dean Carroll, portfolio holder for assets, said the centre was valued at £851,000 as of March 2021.

It is one of 15 council-owned buildings currently subject to restrictions based on risk assessments carried out in line with the latest government guidance, which “has more of a focus” on ventilation, Councillor Carroll said.

He said: “Work continues to be undertaken to maximise the use of these community-based assets to make them available to deliver community-related services or other priorities for the locality.

“This may include other models of ownership or indeed a transfer to a suitable organisation to operate the buildings in the future.

“However no formal decisions have been taken at this stage.”

In response to a suggestion from Councillor Huffer that the centre would “not be able to be used for youth provision again,” Councillor Carroll responded: “I think that is grossly inaccurate.

“We have no idea how long we will have to carry out Covid ventilation measures for, so to say it will not be used again is totally inaccurate – nobody can say that at this point.”

Following the meeting, Councillor Huffer said the responses given to her questions had not filled her with hope that the centre would ever return to previous levels of use.

She said: “Ludlow Young Youth Club is now homeless. I fear that we will not be able restart Ludlow Young Health, which provides drop in sessions for young people, parents and carers, next month. We have nowhere to go.

“Ludlow Youth Centre was purpose built with public funds after a 25-year campaign by Ludlow residents.

“Shropshire Council took away the music and break out rooms. Now it has closed the youth centre down altogether.

“A council that has any concern for young people would have put in place emergency arrangements for youth provisions. But Shropshire Council has all but disowned the young people in this county. That is a disgrace.”

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