Bridgwater youth centre safe for another two years

Bridgwater Mercury: Rollercoaster youth centre Rollercoaster youth centre

THE Rollercoaster youth centre in Bridgwater has once again been saved from closure after town councillors stepped in.

The centre, based in Sydenham, was already given an extension to its service in 2012 when Cllr John Osman signed a plan allowing direct youth work to continue until April 2014 - and the Rollercoaster to remain open.

Somerset County Council are pulling out of youth provision altogether from March 31, sparking concern from parents, police, councillors and the young people who benefit from youth centres.

But now, Bridgwater town councillors have voted to accept £40k of ‘transition funding’ from Somerset County Council to help ensure some youth facilities are maintained.

Cllr Ian Tucker, who has long-campaigned to save the Rollercoaster, said: “It's been recognised that if the Rollercoaster closed there would be a hole in youth facilities in the Sydenham area.

“We need to ensure the Rollercoaster survives and we've set up a stakeholder group of four young people from the centre. The kids want their say and to take part in developing the club, much like the skatepark.

“If the centre were to close there would be 150 kids on the Sydenham estate without a youth club and the police are concerned. Police are supporting this through a Dreamscheme with the club.”

The council is currently assessing which groups will be able to provide the service at the Rollercoaster.

Town Clerk Alan Hurford said: “The council already contributes through funding for Victoria Park centre and Recreation at Hamp.

“One possible long term provider for services at the Rollercoaster would be from the Sydenham Community Centre. That would be open for them to tender but also for others like Victoria centre.

“We need to set up a specification of how we want youth provision to be run in the Sydenham area and that could involve the young people.”

He estimated running costs at the Rollercoaster would be £20k a year, so the £40k could allow it to run for another two years.

He added: “After that the town council would need to consider its budget, or get funding from elsewhere. But this money will allow for us to keep it going while that is figured out. This doesn't have to replicate current provision.”

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