Derbyshire county council ‘caught with pants down’ over move to axe youth centre

Campaigners have been fighting to save the facility for years
Campaigners have been fighting to save the facility for years

A county councillor says the authority has been “caught with its pants down” after agreeing plans to terminate a youth centre’s license ahead of consultation.

In September, it came to light that Derbyshire County Council had served the Ironville Railway Carriage Youth Centre with a termination notice.

The authority had served the notice on July 9, ahead of a consultation – which started on September 5, aimed at cutting early help funding from £12.9 million to £4.5 million in the next two years.

The proposals put 23 youth activity groups at risk of being closed down due to alleged low turnouts.

This three-month notice saw Ironville’s youth centre, housed in a vintage railway carriage for the past 20 years, close on October 8, two weeks ahead of the consultation conclusion on October 22.

The site had been found to be hazardous by the county council’s area surveyor, who said that sharp corroding steel which made up the former train carriage posed a risk of injury.

However, the centre, which frequently welcomes dozens of young people to the site, has now been given a “stay of execution” which will allow it to reopen for six months, in order to make an array of required upgrades and repairs.

This decision was made by “senior management” at the county council on October 11 to allow the site to re-open its doors, against the wishes of the surveyor.

Labour councillor for the division, Cllr Paul Smith, said: “This is a bit of a stay of execution really, and the decision to close it in the first place was very short-sighted.

“Most of the young people in Ironville have got nothing else to do without this.

“I am pleased that this has been overturned, of course they had already been told to close by October 8, ahead of the end of the early help consultation.

“The people of Ironville want it to stay open, and more than 250 people have signed a petition to keep it.

“I think the council has been caught with its pants down and had to make an embarrassing U-turn.”

Cllr Smith, who is also a member of Amber Valley Borough Council, previously called the decision to close the centre “absolutely devastating” and a “kick in the teeth” for a deprived community.

This week, a spokesperson for the authority said: “Now that the repairs to the carriage have been made by the owners, we’ve been able to restart delivering youth activities from there since the beginning of November.

“We stopped using the carriage in September 2017 as it needed some work doing, however we continued to support young people in the area through outreach work.

“Ironville Carriage is owned and managed by the Codnor and Ironville Community Association and we’ve agreed a six-month lease to use it three times a week until April 2019.”

The council’s surveyor wrote in his inspection report: “Corrosion is present in numerous areas, generally in isolated spots of surface pitting.

“Window covers and doors to the front of the carriage appear in worse condition, with heavy rust present and sections of metal completely corroded through, leaving sharp edges.

“The heavy carriage doors are potentially hazardous as they could cause injury through misuse, wind action or finger trapping.

“All steps are constructed using timber railway sleepers, which can become very slippery when wet. It is therefore recommended that an anti-slip covering/coating is applied to these prior to use.

“The area beneath the carriage is accessible due to vandalism of the thick wire mesh which is designed to prevent access. It is recommended that this be repaired ASAP to prevent vandalism/possible arson.

“In conclusion, I would recommend that the carriage should remain closed for use until the issues raised above are addressed.”

Eddie Bisknell , Local Democracy Reporting Service