West Berkshire Council's £250,000 boost for Newbury's Waterside Centre helps bring Berkshire Youth project a step closer to its target
A PROJECT to deliver a state-of-the-art youth facility in the centre of Newbury has been given a major boost by a £250,000 donation from West Berkshire Council.
Local charity Berkshire Youth, which has so far single-handedly managed to raise £1.3m to redevelop the run-down building, described the donation as ‘much appreciated' and a 'fantastic shot in the arm’.
However, it still leaves them £280,000 short of their £1.5m fundraising target and they are now urging local residents and businesses to dig deep and donate to help them complete the project.
The £250,000 is being financed from Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) contributions, which are made to the council by developers to help pay for additional infrastructure and community projects.
The council said that the investment ‘would bring forward a state-of-the art facility for local young people, for whom the impact of Covid has been particularly significant.’
The donation was approved by the council's executive committee when it met on Thursday night (June 10).
Once complete, the Waterside Centre will provide Berkshire Youth with the facilities to carry out its much-needed services for vulnerable youngsters, as well as a range of activities and sports for local young people to get involved in, including rock climbing, dancing and canoeing.
The new-look centre will feature a 14.5m climbing tower, a sports hall with two-storey public viewing gallery, all sat around a cafe hub with outdoor seating and views over the canal.
The refurbishment includes the creation of a large informal social area that can be hired out for birthday parties and other events, an upgrade to the gym hall and meeting rooms.
West Berkshire Council leader Lynne Doherty (Con, Speen) visited the centre with Berkshire Youth President, Roger Smee, recently and was impressed with the progress made to date.
Although the original agreement with Berkshire Youth didn’t include investment from West Berkshire Council, when she heard how fundraising efforts had been affected by the pandemic and saw the extent of the work needed, she decided to offer support from the local authority.
Speaking about the contribution, Mrs Doherty said: “We’re really excited to be making this donation to the Waterside Centre project.
“The pandemic has been very hard on local young people and by contributing in this way we are all investing in a great new facility for their future.
“When I visited the centre recently I was really impressed with what Roger has done to bring the building back into community use.
"When I heard the difficulties Roger had faced because of Covid, we wanted to do whatever we could to help.
“It’s amazing to see how far the redevelopment has come thanks to the contributions of local people and we’re proud to be providing this investment, which will help to bring the project over the line.
“I’m very pleased that we are able to use the Community Infrastructure Levy we’ve collected in this creative way and I know that the centre will be a huge asset to both Newbury and the wider community here in West Berkshire."
Mr Smee added: “It has taken Berkshire Youth (BY) more than eight years to bring this desperately-needed youth project to fruition.
“The project was eventually launched at the House of Lords on February 27, 2020. Some three weeks later our fundraising plans were in tatters due to the pandemic.
“We are therefore very grateful to West Berkshire Council for visiting the premises to take detailed notice of what we are delivering for local youngsters.The council should be congratulated for using CIL money exactly the way it is intended - to help fund key community projects.
“The much-appreciated donation is a great shot in the arm for us all at Berkshire Youth and it takes us to within £280,000 of our project target of £1,530,000.
“We are now hoping additional local businesses and key families might also wish to help us reach our target. No donation is too small."
The Waterside Centre was previously owned entirely by the council and used to deliver services to different community groups and organisations but it fell into desrepair.
In 2019 it sold a 50 per cent share to Berkshire Youth so the charity could redevelop the space for desperately needed services.
In the time since, Berkshire Youth has undertaken significant renovations which have been part-funded by private donations and contributions from Greenham Trust and The Good Exchange.
If you would like to make a donation, visit the fundraising page on The Good Exchange at https://bit.ly/3vkV8rQ
Your donation will be doubled when you give via this link thanks to match-funding from Greenham Trust, meaning every £1 you donate will become a £2 donation.
Alternatively, email Mr Smee at email@example.com to find out more.