A YOUTH club in Frampton Cotterell is to be closed down by the parish council despite pleas from troubled teenagers, the police and youth workers to keep it open.
Brockeridge Youth Centre will shut its doors to young people with immediate effect following a highly contentious meeting of Frampton Cotterell Parish Council on Wednesday (May 28).
The move was proposed by a youth sub-committee, which says the council’s £10,000 youth budget can be better spent elsewhere in the village, but its backers were lambasted by fellow councillors for failing to consult parishioners including young people or coming up with an alternative plan.
Cllr Dave Hockey, who has previously worked at the youth club and wanted to see it saved, said: “I am disgusted by the way this has been handled and I will make sure the whole village knows it.”
He said since the club, which meets twice weekly, had been opened following public calls for a facility in the village in 2000, it had helped many young people facing troubling circumstances.
“When a mother committed suicide in the village and her son started taking drugs, there was a professional youth worker here to help him,” said Cllr Hockey.
His wife Cllr Pat Hockey added: “I am very sad to be here discussing this.
“Yes we should always evaluate what we do but not close down what we have got and what is working well until we have consulted on it and found, without a shadow of a doubt, what is proposed is better than what we have.”
Volunteer youth worker Chris Harris said: “The people who come to the youth centre are not people who don’t want to go to Scouts or do sports or other youth activities. They just want to hang out.
“Young people need to be empowered in their community and that is where a youth centre can come in.
“But the council has failed to talk to young people here and has pushed this through.”
Martin Harris, manager of the Nisa convenience store on Lower Stone Close, said the shop had experienced countless problems with shoplifting, racial abuse and vandalism before the centre had opened.
“We used to get real problems but that has all stopped since the youth centre has been here,” he said. “We don’t want to go back to the way things were.”
A parish plan carried out by the Village Action group found the biggest single concern of the community was youth provision.
Jen Dunford, from Village Action, said: “It is really considered that the youth get a raw deal in Frampton Cotterell so rather than cutting services shouldn’t we be putting more in?”
But Cllr John Farbrother, who proposed the motion to close the centre, said the move would allow the parish council, which built the Brockeridge Centre and administers the youth club, to provide a better run facility.
“We are not saying we are not going to have anything else, the proposal is to develop a plan looking at youth provision in Frampton Cotterell including the most vulnerable young people but also looking at the myriad of other activities that take place,” he said.
“There are around 6,000 youngsters in the village and we spend all of our budget on servicing about 11 people. That just doesn’t make sense.”
PC Finbar Simmons, the village beat manager, told the meeting: “I cannot predict the levels of anti-social behaviour in the area in the event the Brockeridge Centre ceases to provide a service for young people.
“Should it close a valued partner and resource will be lost which could have an impact on the community as a whole.”
A vote to close the centre was carried with five in favour, three against and two abstentions.
Megan Hodge, 14, who attends the club, told the Gazette afterwards: “There will be more trouble.
“I liked coming here and chatting to people and playing pool and on the Playstation. Otherwise we are just on the streets.”
Kath Aldom, lifelong Frampton Cotterell resident and founder of Coalpit Heath charity Paul’s Place, said: “Our youth is a great part of our community and even if that costs us as a parish, it is something we should continue to invest in.
“We have forgotten the most vulnerable people in our community.”