Centre of Attention

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The Leader of Redbridge Council, Councillor Jas Athwal, explains the decision to convert Wanstead Youth Centre into an education and youth hub, and why it must temporarily close in order to do so  

With its bustling High Street, outstanding schools, green spaces and fantastic transport links to central London, Wanstead is one of the best places in London to call home.

Our council has shared plans to invest significantly in Wanstead Youth Centre, using ring-fenced education funding to create a new education and youth hub on the site. Our proposals will secure a better and brighter future for the centre, generations of local children and young people, and local community groups.

As it stands, the centre needs significant structural work to bring it up to an acceptable standard, and as a council, we need to make sure we’re spending taxpayers’ money wisely; that’s why it’s vital we provide a fit-for-purpose facility accessible to the community that operates on a sound financial footing. The proposals for the centre include co-locating education services, a tuition centre, an Early Years Play and Development Centre and providing new youth services. There will be refurbished space for community use and our hope is the centre will become an education and youth hub. There is a widely held misconception that the current youth centre provides council-run services for children and young people. The truth is there haven’t been any youth services commissioned through the centre since 2016. Instead, the centre serves as a venue for hire for local businesses. Following our proposed investment, council services would once again operate out of the centre, alongside a hireable community space. 

Redbridge is one of the lowest-funded boroughs in London, having lost around 63% of our government funding since 2010, which has forced us to make huge savings of £236m. Despite these challenges, we continue delivering vital services and investing in what matters most to our neighbours, which is why we’re proposing to renovate the centre and house additional council services in the space.

Unfortunately, leaving the centre as it is isn’t an option. Last year, a building survey laid bare the considerable structural work required to bring the facility up to modern standards. The centre needs investment, and by co-locating education services in the space, we can access additional ring-fenced education funding and provide new facilities. To move forward with our proposals, the site must temporarily close. Vision RCL are already working with businesses and groups currently hiring space to help them relocate.  

We’ve listened to local people who shared how important the centre is and found a solution which keeps the venue open in the long term while providing additional services. In the future, there will be plenty of opportunities for people to give feedback on the proposals and share ideas on how the new facility can best serve Wanstead.

To contact Councillor Jas Athwal, email jas.athwal@redbridge.gov.uk