A very enthusiastic and hard working group led by Neville Davies has helped members of the original Youth Club Committee bring the Youth Club Premises on the Lymm waterfront at Bridgewater Street back into use. We welcome this.
Unfortunately this has been done in an acrimonious atmosphere in which accusations have been thrown at Warrington Borough Council and the three Borough Councillors which are unfair and untrue. The purpose of this note is to clarify our position and form a basis for resolving the points on which we agree and those on which we disagree.
The land at Bridgewater Street belonged to Lymm Urban District Council. In 1966 the land was leased to the four Trustees nominated by the Lymm Youth Club to enable them to build on the site. Under local government reorganisation in 1974 ownership of the site was transferred to Warrington Borough Council. The lease expired in 2006, However, as early as 2004, the Property Services department of Warrington Borough Council tried to begin negotiations over a renewal. Unfortunately there was no longer a panel of trustees able to take on the lease. Negotiations continued through 2006 up to and beyond the expiry of the original lease. These negotiations are still continuing. Warrington Borough Council interprets the lease, their registered title, and the history of the site as giving ownership.
The ‘Neville Davies group’ has publicly challenged this, claims to have legal advice to the contrary and claims that they have grounds for suing both the Council and the Borough Councillors over this matter. No specific charges have been made by the group and the group has provided no evidence of the legal advice they have had. All three Borough Councillors have made it clear that if this matter requires legal resolution, that must happen and all parties must abide by the outcome so the future of both the building and the club can be settled.
In recent years the youth activities at the club have been provided, somewhat sporadically, by a group of volunteers who also did their best to bring the building up to a standard suitable for use. It has been extremely difficult to do both, so the involvement of the ‘Neville Davies group’ in managing the building was welcomed, by all three Borough Councillors.
However the issue of the youth provision and the best way to deliver it in Lymm remains, which is why we welcome the opportunity that the three year lease offers to test that. The youth club has been in difficulties since the withdrawal of youth worker support under the previous administration at Warrington Borough Council.
Lymm offers a very wide range of youth activities in sports clubs, music groups, scouts, guides, air cadets, church groups and out of hours school provision. It is not unreasonable to ask what the role of the youth club is in the future? We are not saying it isn’t necessary, but a 10 year peppercorn lease on the assumption that there is an ongoing requirement is not a reasonable demand.
The many conspiracy theories which are being put about such as linking the withdrawal of youth support with a desire to sell the site, or any contacts with potential developers are entirely without foundation and could be interpreted as being intentionally defamatory.
It is true that the Borough Councillors did investigate the possibility of a joint development on the site that would have provided a community facility together with a Primary Care Trust clinic or jointly with the Citizen’s Advice Bureau. Both fell through. It is also true that the possibility of developing this and other sites on the waterfront to provide enabling development for community facilities and other improvements to the village are being considered and may be put to the public for consultation. The ‘Neville Davies group’ have stated that they are not necessarily averse to this, provided a replacement facility is also on the waterfront or near the village centre.
A full list of community spaces used for non-commercial community activities around the village is being compiled. This is because the Youth Club is not the only community centre that needs support. We believe that what really matters is that the right spaces, in good usable condition, are available for all the community activities in the village. It is the activities that matter, not necessarily the buildings in which they are housed.
This is why we are encouraging the ‘Neville Davies group’ to test the demand for additional community space in the building on which they have done so much work to bring it back into usable condition. If such a demand is demonstrated, it will make it much easier to ensure the future of either the youth club building or any replacement or alternative.
It was for this reason that one of the Borough Councillors, when working with the Youth Club committee on a business plan to secure the future of the premises suggested that they should turn themselves into the Lymm Youth and Community Association to widen the user base for the building and to ensure that it is used for community activities for most nights of the week.
It is entirely unhelpful to move forward in an atmosphere of conflict. Warrington’s Property Services staff and the three Borough Councillors are doing all that they can to ensure that the full potential of the Youth Club building is fairly tested. However collectively they have a responsibility to the residents of Lymm and the people of Warrington to ensure that resources are properly used. The government demands this, and the next government, given the state of public sector finances, will not change that. The case for community facilities for the youth of Lymm as well as people of all ages has to be made. If it is, then it should be possible to do something constructive. The preservation of the existing youth club building must be a lower priority than the provision of appropriate youth and community facilities to meet the demonstrable need of the residents of Lymm.