Dilapidated former community centre in Berwick poised for new lease of life
Berwick Youth Project has finally succeeded in acquiring the town’s dilapidated former community centre.
It is five years since the charity applied to take on the Palace Street East building from Northumberland County Council.
Over that period it has deteriorated further with commercial theft plus vandalism exposing the interior to the elements and pigeon infestation.
Berwick Youth Project now wants to carry out substantial repairs to extend its supported accommodation for young people.
It is halfway towards its funding target of £800,000 and hopes renovation works can begin in the next 12 months.
The new facility will wrap around the six units in Golden Square to offer a three bed reception house with live-in resident staff, a first step for most young people living independently.
After a move to Golden Square, which provides rooms similar to student halls of residence, a third step will see a return to Palace Street for a stay in one of three one-bedroom flats, the last step before a move to independent tenancies.
Project manager John Bell explained: “In recent years the average age of a typical resident has gone down significantly, and we’re much more likely to see younger people of 16 and 17 who have very limited experience of independent living and who need more support and supervision that we can currently provide.
“The shift from a one-step to a three-step process will provide a clear pathway for young people to become successful members of the local community.
“We have a good track record of 23 years in this field, and the time is right to rethink what we offer so we can meet the needs that we’re facing currently.
“Over 200 young residents have passed through the Project since we started on the Quay Walls in 1997, the vast majority now working and living locally and bringing up their own families.”
The community centre closed in 2015 but the council was limited in what it could do with the building because it was held in trust on behalf of a long-defunct charity.
Originally built in the 1750s as a Mansion House, it later became Berwick Grammar School until 1939.