Local action appears to have won a significant victory in Redbridge. Redbridge Council had been threatening to close the Wanstead Youth Centre.
Around 1,200 people use the Centre every week, including young people, vulnerable groups, and the wider community. It provides a safe space for social interaction and makes an invaluable contribution to the well-being of its users, with facilities including a main hall, a large sports hall and a fully equipped music recording studio. There is no suitable alternative location or provision in the borough that meets users’ needs.
There were protests at the Town Hall, a petition that gained over 5,000 signatures, and many letters to the local newspapers, which gave good coverage to the campaign. In March, over 250 local people attended a lively protest meeting.
Local young people spoke passionately about the positive impact of the venue on them. One centre user, Ellie, aged 15, asked: “Is the mental health of young people who use the centre being taken into account?” Concerned about the warnings young people receive about gangs, exploitation and mental health, she added, “This is one of the few places that holds our society together.”
Now the council is saying that it hopes to spend £5.7 million on converting the centre into an “education hub and youth centre” with improved facilities for community use. Campaign group Save our Wanstead Youth Centre said it “cautiously welcomes” Redbridge’s reversal of its decision to close the centre.