LOCAL councillor Paul Bull says that the future of the Westside centre in Buddle Lane is beginning to look more secure.
There is to be a public meeting about its future on July 1.
Cllr Bull told Community News: “The long-term future is beginning to look assured as YMCA Exeter continues to make progress towards taking over the centre and starting to use it as a community facility.
“Local councillors have often remarked that Cowick has very few venues actually within the ward, and were looking at ways to get Westside (formerly known as Buddle Lane Youth Centre) used for events other than just youth services.
“Devon County Council’s plan to cut youth service delivery from Westside was announced over a year ago and as one door closed, another opened.
“Myself and fellow councillor Heather Morris have worked with YMCA Exeter on several projects such as their local Job Club and participated in the annual Sleep Easy event. So when an opportunity came to deliver alternative youth provision with a wider community aspect, it seemed to us that the YMCA could be a useful partner.”
Cllr Bull added: “The YMCA’s vision is to re-open Westside as a community facility that anyone can hire to run community services.
“They hope over time to develop (in partnership with other organisations) a range of services for young people, older people, and families.
“We’ve always seen the potential for Westside to strengthen the community in Cowick, and it’s now looking that that potential is coming to fruition.”
Cllr Morris is equally excited about the prospects and said: “Over 18 months ago we had hoped that the centre could be turned into a facility that would bring people of all ages together and it’s thanks to the YMCA, we are so close to seeing this turned into a reality.
“Indeed Peter Stephenson, chief executive of YMCA Exeter, is now confident that ‘this WILL happen’.
“They have the funding in place. The county council has already repaired the aging boiler and approved a grant of more than £50,000 to completely renew the roof – it is hoped that this can include additional security measures.”
County councillor for Cowick, Roy Hill, has helped with some of the funding bids. Cllr Hill said: “I was happy that Exeter Board has approved a grant of more than £20,000 which will cover the expected shortfall in year one as they get the centre operating as a community hub.
“As the local county councillor I was pleased to give £7,000 from my Invest in Devon fund as a capital grant to help with some of the costs of renewing and equipping the centre as the YMCA move towards re-opening the centre.”
In addition, YMCA have received a grant of £2,800 from the local neighourhood policing team.
With all the financial costs covered, and progress being made with the legal aspects, Mr Stephenson said: “We hope the centre will be open in the not too distant future, and I expect everything will be up and running by September.”
Cllr Morris added: “We all believe the local community has a vital role to play to enable YMCA Exeter to keep the centre open for the benefit of everyone, so we welcome their plans to hold a consultation meeting at 7pm on July 1.
“Unfortunately, the condition of Westside means that the centre is not a suitable venue for this meeting and we are grateful that the Baptist Church nearby in Dorset Avenue has kindly agreed to host the meeting.”
Cllr Bull said: “I am looking forward to hearing staff from YMCA Exeter sharing their vision of transforming Westside into a resource for the whole community whilst also providing services for young people in the neighbourhood. Do join us on this journey.”