Community centre wrecked by thieves
Thieves have caused thousands of pounds worth of damage to Berwick’s former community centre.
Large quantities of metalwork, cables and pipes were stolen from virtually every room in the building on Palace Street East with internal ceilings torn down in the process.
It is a huge blow to Berwick Youth Project which had been in the process of acquiring the property from Northumberland County Council.
John Bell, youth project manager, said: “We started the process to take on this building in February 2015, six months before the centre closed, and after almost four years we thought we were starting to get somewhere when the county council formally approved the transfer in September 2018.
“We always knew it was going to be a tough job, as the condition of the property had been deteriorating for years, but this latest event really has sickened us.
“We’re still waiting for the documentation to enable us to actually accept the building, and I have to admit it’s left us wondering if it’s the right thing for the Project to do. It’s a very different proposition from the one we started out with.”
Estimates for the refurbishment of the property stood at almost £1.6million even before this damage, which happened over the festive period.
Berwick Youth Project is hopeful of funding from the Community Housing Fund and Heritage Lottery Fund. The central part of the property is an 18th century mansion house, purchased in the 1860s by the Trustees of Berwick Grammar School and used for that purpose until 1939. After the Second World War it served as a Youth and Community Centre until the county council closed its doors in August 2015.
Mr Bell, who’s been at the forefront of the youth project since it was founded 24 years ago, remains hopeful.
“Our plan is to refurbish the upper floors of the house to create accommodation for six young people in addition to the six we have in Golden Square.
“It’s very much needed and would replace the beds we could offer on the Quay Walls before our lease for that property expired.
“The rest of the building would be retained and enhanced as a Community Centre, and we’re very much aware from previous users, both individuals and organisations, how badly it’s been missed.
“I’ve been a youth worker for over 30 years now, and I attended a Youth Club in the wooden huts at Palace Street as a teenager, so I’ve a very personal interest in seeing that building brought back to life and secured for the future.”