'Move out' order as Helston youth centre taken over in secret
7:00am Friday 13th July 2012 in Helston
Youth workers were left stunned on Monday after being told to move out of Helston Youth Centre as it had been “taken over by Helston Community College.”
This was the claim from Helston Youth Club's management committee yesterday, which is still reeling over the sudden announcement.
The move has resulted in claims from the committee that Helston Community College and Cornwall Council had “reneged on their word”.
Sue Swift, chairman of the committee, said: “It is clear to me that the community college is rushing to possess the building and do not care who they stamp on to get what they want. But in this case they are stamping all over the children of this area, leaving them without activities and clubs they love to use.”
It is understood the college intends to continue using the youth centre on Church Hill as a sixth form centre during the day, and as a study centre during the evening.
The centre management has claimed it is for this reason the evening youth sessions and activities are having to move out, leaving youth groups “high and dry.”
Mrs Swift was called to an urgent meeting at the youth centre on Monday, at which staff had told her they had been informed they could no longer run sessions from the centre and refurbishment was to begin “next week.”
“As far as I and my committee are concerned we have still got the lease on that building. If anybody is being thrown out surely we should be consulted?” she said.
Mrs Swift claimed negotiations had been taking place about the ownership of the building for “quite some time” as it was leased by the management committee from Cornwall Council under a 25-year lease.
She alleged the college had tried in the past to take over the centre, but were prevented from doing so by the terms of the lease.
“Most recently we passed the moment when notice could be served on us, as a ten-year break clause was written into the lease. However, at this stage we have only had discussions with Cornwall Council and have not yet received a formal letter giving us our required six months' notice.
“We had also received assurances during our negotiations that arrangements would be put in place for us to continue to use the centre for our activities,” she said, adding that Monday's news “blew those assurances out of the window.”
Mrs Swift said that young people did not want to go to activities that could be seen as being linked school, which was why an independent building was so important.
“To think that centre was built with blood, sweat and tears and a lot of fundraising.
“There are an awful lot of people in Helston and the surrounding area that put money into that place and worked hard. If they felt it was just being taken over...I think they would be quite angry. I think of our past chairmen that have now died - they would be turning in their graves.
“I just feel like I've got a duty of care to the staff and to the young people. I've got to fight for what I think is right.”
Mrs Swift added that she was “not trying to score points” and said she hoped a compromise could be reached.
“All I'm trying to do is make sure there's youth provision in the town,” she said.
“We are scrabbling to find alternative homes for all our groups and our discussions are in an understandable early stage, but any help would be appreciated.
“Also we would be very grateful if a community-minded local solicitor could come to our aid with some free assistance. We have a duty to our young people to fight this and we will.”
A spokesperson for Cornwall Council, said: “Cornwall Council will look into the specific concerns of the management committee.
“The council is working closely with Helston Community College and a range of other partners in Helston and the Lizard to improve services and opportunities for children, young people and families.”
Staff said they were not allowed to speak on the matter and referred all questions to Cornwall Council.