Croydon’s young people have moved one step closer to walking through the doors of their state-of-the-art £6.5million OnSide Youth Zone, after building work began this week.
A special ground-breaking ceremony at the Youth Zone site in Selhurst welcomed many of the project’s funders to witness the first sod being cut by a 10-foot spade. They were joined by members of OnSide’s Croydon young people’s development group which has been integral in the planning of the Youth Zone.
The centre, which is being developed by the national charity OnSide, will boast a wide array of facilities and activities for young people aged eight to 19 – or up to 25 with additional needs – including sports in the four-court sports hall, 3G kick pitch, fitness suite and martial arts area as well as art, music, dance, drama, cookery, enterprise and employability opportunities and much more.
The ground-breaking ceremony took place following the demolition of the former Whitehorse Youth Centre which once stood on the site, which is located on the junction of Whitehorse Road and Boulogne Road.
Croydon Council is funding £3.25million towards the construction costs with the remainder being sourced by OnSide from a number of external contributors including the Queen’s Trust, the Stone Family Foundation and UBS, Vistra and the Seroussi Foundation. The Council has also committed to funding £300,000 per yer as part of the annual £1million running costs. OnSide is committed to raising the remainder of this from private sector philanthropy.
Youth Zone Chair Nick Sleep said: “Our Youth Zones are magical places. I’d like you to picture this, that in a year’s time we will have a 20,000 ft sq purpose built iconic youth zone right where we were standing today as we broke down. The climbing walls, the boxing ring, there will be arts, craft, drama, theatre workshops, music. Our volunteers and staff offer coaching and where necessary pastoral care that may not be found easily elsewhere and all this can be accessed by kids for £5 to become a member and then 50p a visit. We are so excited to see this Youth Zone being developed here in Croydon.”
Croydon Council Leader Tony Newman said: “I am really delighted to see this fantastic project becoming a reality. Through Legacy we are delivering a wonderful facility for Croydon’s young people and what is really special is that they have been at the centre of this project throughout, helping to shape what will be on offer. Croydon’s Choose Your Future campaign is all about helping young people to make positive choices and key to this is making sure that they have access to opportunities that they really want and that can set them on the right path. Legacy will offer so many of our young people, so many opportunities – whether it’s the chance to learn new skills, do something they love, give something back as a volunteer, or even just make new friends. It’s going to make a real difference to their lives and I’m hugely proud to be part of it.”
Recruitment for the army of staff and volunteers needed to run the Youth Zone will begin later this year and will be led by Chief Executive Barnabas Shelbourne who has spent the first part of this year at Wigan’s OnSide Youth Zone.
Barnabas said: “I am so thrilled to see work begin on Legacy and before you know it, we’ll be opening the doors to thousands of Croydon’s young people. We still have a lot to do before then though, including raising the remaining revenue needed to open those doors, but this is such an exciting first step.”