AFTER nearly 70 years working with teenagers from all walks of life, Thornbury's much-loved youth centre will close its doors indefinitely in March.

Faced with major funding cuts, the local authority chose to relinquish control of seven of its 13 youth clubs, including Thornbury, in September last year and ask private organisations to run them instead.

Each prospective group was invited to bid for a share of a new fund to help with the day-to-day cost of managing the region's centres.

But following administrative delays, the bid submitted by Krunch, the Christian charity hoping to take over Thornbury’s Area 35 club, will not be considered by South Gloucestershire Council’s Severnvale area forum until March 6.

The belated decision means that no grant will be fully allocated until April at the earliest, preventing an immediate takeover and forcing the cash-strapped centre to shut on March 14.

Turnberrie's, which houses the centre, will stay open as usual.

Town councillor and area forum member Maggie Tyrrell told the Gazette: "It is disappointing that there will be a gap in services, although the club would have been closed for the Easter holidays anyway.

"It’s just taking slightly longer than we had hoped. It’s one of these admin delays but we hope it will open in April."

Allocating funds may be more complex than initially expected, however.

The area forum only has £42,563 set aside for grant applications from youth groups in the area, including Pilning, Severn Beach and Oldbury.

Krunch, the Gazette understands, is requesting £38,842 out of the funding pot, towards the cost of running the town's youth centre. This would leave hardly any financial help to other equally-needed organisations, according to forum member and Severn district Cllr Matthew Riddle.

"The whole point of inviting different youth groups to bid for council resources was to ensure that funding was spread around the area to benefit many more young people than at present," he said.

"My fear is that history is about to repeat itself and once again the rural villages from Olveston to Charfield will not benefit from the council’s youth funding because it will almost all be concentrated in just one poorly-attended youth centre miles away from the villages in which young people live."

If councillors opt to follow Cllr Riddle’s advice and distribute the sum between youth clubs on a per-head basis, Thornbury youth centre could remain shut indefinitely.

But prioritising one club would lead many young people left by the wayside once more, he said.