‘Youth zone’ plans need fund­ing

Macclesfield Express - - FRONT PAGE -

A COM­MU­NITY group has am­bi­tious plans to cre­ate a ‘youth zone’ for Mac­cles­field young­sters - but is strug­gling to per­suade the coun­cil to pro­vide £1m fund­ing.

Cheshire Youth Fed­er­a­tion wants to open a cen­tre at its site on Ox­ford Road at an ini­tial cost of £2m, then £200,000 an­nu­ally to run.

Chair­man Jim Bis­set says the group would pro­vide half of both sets of money and has asked Cheshire East Coun­cil to make up the rest.

De­spite so far draw­ing a blank he says the fund­ing would be a worth­while in­vest­ment pro­vid­ing con­struc­tive ac­tiv­i­ties that would lower anti-so­cial be­hav­iour.

And that the value of this was shown last week when po­lice ap­pealed over the vi­o­lent dis­or­der in­volv­ing gangs of up to 35 youths in Mac­cles­field town cen­tre.

Jim said: “We have not given up, what has hap­pened proves we need this in Mac­cles­field.

“It would make an enor­mous dif­fer­ence and help youth de­vel­op­ment, we used to have a youth club two nights a week and po­lice would tell us they could tell the nights it was on.

“Mac­cles­field de­serves a fa­cil­ity like this. The coun­cil says there are no funds but it should look at its pri­or­i­ties as there should be no higher pri­or­ity than youth.”

The youth zone would in­clude a cafe­te­ria, break-out area, a meet­ing room for speak­ers and an IT suite as well as fa­cil­i­ties to teach skills such as cook­ing and hair­dress­ing.

Ac­cord­ing to Jim sim­i­lar pro­jects have been suc­cess­ful - at a higher cost than £2m - in other ar­eas such as Pre­ston, Birken­head and Carlisle.

He says the fed­er­a­tion has asked the coun­cil sev­eral times over the last five years to come on board.

A spokesman for Cheshire East Coun­cil said: “.

As re­ported in last week’s Mac­cles­field Ex­press po­lice asked par­ents for help af­ter sev­eral weeks of dis­or­der in the town cen­tre, which in­cluded po­lice be­ing racially abused, in­tim­i­da­tion and vi­o­lent in­ci­dents.

A spokesper­son for Cheshire East Coun­cil said: “We can con­firm the coun­cil has been ap­proached in re­la­tion to a Youth Zone in Mac­cles­field. The of­fer made in­cluded cap­i­tal set up costs and a con­tri­bu­tion to run­ning costs.

“Hav­ing re­searched a num­ber of Youth Zones across the coun­try, the ev­i­dence has shown they re­quire a large staffing ra­tio and bud­get which is far too ex­pen­sive. This means the busi­ness case is not sus­tain­able or fi­nan­cially vi­able for the coun­cil.

“While the Youth Zones have been seen to work in ur­ban ar­eas, where there are suf­fi­cient num­bers of young peo­ple liv­ing close enough to the Youth Zone to ac­cess the ser­vices – this is not the case in Mac­cles­field.

“Mem­ber­ship fees and sub­scrip­tions are kept low to pro­mote ac­cess which means the cen­tres can strug­gle to gen­er­ate enough in­come if num­bers are too low.

“Cheshire East Coun­cil is com­mit­ted to im­prov­ing the leisure and health fa­cil­i­ties for its res­i­dents and has in­vested heav­ily with Mac­cles­field youth sup­port ser­vices as well as £4m on the sports cen­tre.”

Jim Bis­set of the Cheshire Youth Fed­er­a­tion

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