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Burton Centre row could become a national test case

Wednesday, 27th February 2013.

Haverhill Town Council is to pursue its legal challenge to the decision not to pass the Burton Centre over to it, after being advised it has a case for a judicial review.

Suffolk County Council decided to give the building to St Nicholas Hospice as an outreach centre instead of to the town council as a base for youth activities.

The county has been talking to the town council about other properties for youth purposes, but town councillors say it is ridiculous for the hospice to spend 500,000 on converting a purpose-built youth centre, while hundreds of thousands are spent adapting another building to that purpose.

Town clerk Will Austin told members at last night's town council meeting this could well become a national test case about the Government's localism agenda.

He had legal advice via the Suffolk Association of Local Councils (SALC), and been advised the town council had a case to go to a judicial review.

SALC and the National Association of Local Councils (NALC) were now inquiring into available external funding for what would be a test case for the localism agenda.

Meanwhile Mr Austin had submitted the town council's formal complaint about the decision-making process to the county.

They had already taken issue by appealing the decision, without success and had had no formal reply to the complaint as the county are supposed to provide a review by another department within its organisation which was independent of the original decision.

"They will also be getting a letter with regard to legal action - not from me," he said.

But talks are also taking place about alternative premises for basing youth facilities if the legal challenge does not go ahead or if it fails.

Mr Austin said he had looked at the former court house in Camps Road, at the White Hart pub which is up for lease at present, at the former Co-op in Jubilee Walk and at the Crown Health Centre, none of which gave him much confidence they would be suitable.

The town council has set aside 150,000 capital to set up youth premises and 80,000 a year revenue to fund the service, by which they hope to replace the service cut by the county council over a year ago.

Members agreed to continue that provision, but Mr Austin said the capital sum would not be anywhere near sufficient to convert any of the available buildings so, unless the Burton Centre was available, the scheme would be unviable without help from other agencies or authorities.

Negotiations are also to start between the youth provision steering group set up by ONE Haverhill, and St Nicholas Hospice about the possibility of renting part of the Burton Centre from them.

Mr Austin said it was not appropriate for the towmn council to be involved in such negotiations.

The steering group has been set up because youth provision is one of ONE Haverhill's two major priorities within the national community budgeting pilot which it is currently delivering.

Town councillors suggested the middle school sites for a temporary building if necessary, but Mr Austin said it was important the facility was not associated with a particular estate.

Some of the young people who were hardest to reach would find this a barrier if they came from a different estate, he said.

Cllr Bryan Hawes said it beggared belief that so much money should have to be spent to create a facility which was currently already there.

"It's no wonder residents laugh at councillors and council decisions when they hear this sort of thing," he said. "People can't understand how they could make such a decision."

Haverhill Online News

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