Councillors set to fight Horncastle Youth Centre closure

Horncastle Youth Centre. EMN-190716-091623001
Horncastle Youth Centre. EMN-190716-091623001

The future of Horncastle’s Youth Centre building is hanging by a thread after the shock revelation by Lincolnshire County Council that they plan to shut the building in September.

The centre is ‘home’ to a number of organisations including the town’s youth club, a Jiu Jitsu club and TED - a club specifically for over 55s.

But at their monthly meeting last week, town councillors were told following a detailed review into the future of the building - located just off Jubilee Way - the county council had decided it was no longer viable.

The news of the closure was revealed in an email sent to town and county councillor Bill Aron.

Coun Aron told the meeting: “The County Council has completed a full and detailed audit of the Youth Centre, and because of the amount of work needed they have decided to close the building in September.

“They (the county council) are working with children’s services to try and find alternative accommodation.

“What they have said is the youth service will continue to function in Horncastle - albeit at a different venue.”

Councillors slammed the decision and demanded either the county council performed a u-turn, or give more time to allow discussions regarding the future of the building.

Coun Aron said the county council had intimated there were not enough ‘tenants’ to justify the spending required on the actual building.

However, Coun Alan Lockwood accused the county council of performing an ‘underhand trick’.

He said that if the town council contacted County Hall and asked for a detailed breakdown of the work involved - and the cost of repairs - he seriously doubted whether they could provide it.

Coun Lockwood said: “Have we got details of what action is actually needed - and what it will cost?

“I bet if we asked LCC we would not get an answer.

“LCC have treated us very badly. They have not informed this council. It’s an underhand trick.

“At the very least we should go back to them and ask for a delay on the closure.”

Coun Lockwood added that if the centre did close, the building would ‘probably be bulldozed’ and replaced by housing.

Coun Dominic Hinkins told the meeting he understood the youth club had already shut down.

He said the club was popular and offered a vital service for teenagers in the town.

Coun Hinkins claimed he understood resources for youth services had been diverted from Horncastle and transferred to the coast instead.

Several councillors - including Coun Hinkins - asked whether it would be possible for an organisation to take over the running of the centre.

Councillors said they doubted county claims about the amount of work needed to keep the building open.

Coun Matthew Wilkinson said the fact the county council had spent ‘little or nothing’ on the building in the last ten years had led to the current situation. He said that the lack of investment had put some potential ‘tenants’ off moving into the centre.

He added: “It would be a great shame to close it.

“All that is needed is one organisation to come forward. Why close it down?”

Coun Aron said he could only repeat the information in the email which was sent to him on the afternoon of the meeting (last Tuesday).

He vehemently denied suggestions by other councillors that he must have known about the closure earlier.

He said he would contact County Hall and question the decision to close the centre.

Councillors also agreed to write to LCC leader Coun Martin Hill in the ‘strongest possible’ terms objecting to the closure, and to seek a delay.

Coun Hinkins said he would be happy to be involved in any bid to keep the centre open, and hopefully identify someone to run it.

On Friday, Coun Aron told the News: “I have agreed to help co-ordinate looking at producing a feasibility study, following the interest shown from councillors and members of the public.

“I have approached the County Council who have been extremely helpful.

“Coun Hinkins has also worked hard liaising with the interested user groups - we are planning to hold a meeting at the centre fairly soon.

“Anyone interested in helping or requiring space, please contact Dominic on 07554 425353 or Bill on 01507 526951 or 07711 195961.”