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Court option ditched for Haverhill youth hub

Magistrates' court ENGANL00120131015150337
Magistrates' court ENGANL00120131015150337

The long talked about dream of turning Haverhill’s former magistrates court building into a youth hub has been abandoned, in favour of exploring other possibilities.

Haverhill Town Council voted unanimously on Tuesday to ditch the project and instead look at the viability of extending the arts centre to include a hub, or renovating the old Corn Exchange in Withersfield Road.

The town council will also look into the possibility of having a drop-in health facility alongside the hub at the Corn Exchange.

Cllr Maureen Byrne told the meeting it was time to scrap any notions of using local authority-owned buildings and go it alone.

She said: “Let’s invest in what we’ve got and invest in the youth of this town.”

Cllr Byrne’s comments came after town clerk Colin Poole gave a report on a meeting he had with Lisa Chambers, Suffolk County Council’s (SCC) cabinet member for education and skills and Judith Mobbs, SCC’s Skills for the Future manager, to discuss the youth hub project.

Mr Poole told councillors: “They started by saying the town council should be leading away from the concept of building based services.

“They are not going to give us the magistrates court. If we want to buy it then we can buy it so long as they don’t need it themselves.”

Mr Poole added that he was told during the meeting that SCC doesn’t yet know what they want to do with the old court building and won’t decide anything until they know what it will do with neighbouring Place Court residential home, which is closing down once a new care home is opened in Millfields Way - scheduled for March.

The town council could lease the building, but after five years it could still be sold by SCC. The cost of the lease is also still unknown and looks likely to remain that way until at least April.

Mr Poole said: “If we sign a lease on that building without knowing what we are letting ourselves in for we would not be acting in the best interests of the public.”

Alternative locations for a youth hub were then debated by councillors, including Bevan House, the former Red Cross centre (which the town council owns), the old Co-op in Jubilee Walk (owned by St Edmundsbury Council) the arts centre and the Corn Exchange, which is privately owned and available to buy.

Cllr Betty McLatchy suggested the Corn Exchange be used jointly as a youth hub and drop-in health centre.

Cllr Byrne was critical of SCC, saying: “I’m absolutely furious with the position they’ve taken. We are in a catch 22 situation.

“If we lease it for five years and we were not prepared to buy it, that five years of money, we would have wasted it.

“I think we need to tell them to keep it and look at the other options. My preferred option would be this building here (arts centre).”

Councillors formally agreed to drop the court option and voted to explore the costs of extending the arts centre and renovating the Corn Exchange.

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