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Plans unveiled by Labour Party for huge youth complex in St Helens
Updated 1:26pm Friday 16th May 2014 in News
CREATING a major youth complex that would rival successful ventures in neighbouring towns has been confirmed a key part of Labour’s local election manifesto.
The party’s St Helens branch, which controls the council with a large majority, wants to match the success of the celebrated ‘youth zone’ in Wigan.
That facility, billed the biggest youth club in the UK, had its £6.3m building costs covered by local philanthropy, led by businessmen Dave Whelan, Martin Ainscough and Bill Ainscough.
According to Labour, they would seek to attract similar donations from the private sector – but they have not ruled out using public money as well.
It is understood St Helens Council has earmarked a suitable site in the town centre for development, although this is not being made public at this stage.
Making such a bold pledge in an election manifesto, given the recent history of trying to get major leisure projects in St Helens off the ground, may be seen as a risky strategy by some.
However, Barrie Grunewald, the leader of the council, remained bullish when asked by the Star about the pledge, replying: “This will happen.”
Councillor Grunewald said his visits to similar schemes in Lancashire and Wigan had convinced him such a development was needed in St Helens He said: “Some people say ‘there is no money in St Helens’ but in fact there is a long track record of people supporting good causes.
“When I’ve been overwhelmed by similar centres that I’ve visited I have said: 'Why shouldn’t St Helens have one of those?'"
He added that the “number of issues surrounding youths in the town centre” have underlined the importance of the project being delivered.
Sport, art, music, dance, enterprise clubs and martial arts are among the activities for young people that are available in the Wigan zone.
John Beirne, a former mayor of St Helens who is standing as a UKIP candidate in the town centre, welcomed the idea but argued Labour had waited too long.
He said: “I once remember a Labour councillor standing up at a meeting ten years ago and saying ‘youth clubs don’t work.
“I believe it is a good idea but it is a pity they have waited this long and let things get so desperate with kids congregating in the town centre with nowhere to go.”
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