NORTHWICH youngsters will be given the power to decide exactly what leisure facilities they want in the town.

They will be encouraged to take advantage of a new £500,000-plus 'youth hub' being opened in the town centre.

Bosses are keen to stress that it won't be a youth club - rather a one-stop shop offering advice and information to people aged 13-19 to enable them to take control of their lives.

But one of its key services will be to work with youngsters who will be given the power to decide what facilities they want, which could be anything from youth clubs or skate parks to educational services - anything which would improve their quality of life and prospects.

The Government announced last week that it was to inject almost £600,000 into Cheshire's youth services. Council chiefs say a substantial amount of that will help finance the hub, which is expected to open in the autumn. They are busy finalising details to buy and fit out a town centre property.

Cheshire County Council's principal youth officer Berni Moore, of the Vale Royal Youth Work Team currently

based at Rudheath Youth Centre, said: 'I am very excited about it. The whole process puts the power in terms of commissioning services very much in the hands of young people.

'There's a disparity between what adults think young people want and what the young people say they want, which was identified by a council survey last year. Adults would typically say that young people need lots more youth clubs to get them off the streets, but the young people say they need leisure centres and information, support and advice to take control of their lives, which is what the hub is all about.

'Across Cheshire sufficient opportunities for young people have not been made available - like the majority of the country there hasn't been the necessary investment in services and this money will certainly help improve the situation.

'We have chosen a base and are in the process of negotiating the purchase of it.'

Three hubs are already open around the country with three more to follow in the next few months covering the six Cheshire districts.

Mr Moore added: 'They have been very successful, and we will be inviting young people from Vale Royal to see those already in operation and sw how they work.

'Where the hubs are already in operation, the range of opportunities available to young people have increased, ranging from organising events and establishing facilities to having a much greater voice to get their views across.'

He added: 'Youth work is not targeted to reduce anti-social behaviour, but a by-product is that anti-social behaviour will be reduced.

'Parts of Mid Cheshire have very high rates of teenage pregnancies and reports have shown there is a very clear link that where you have got well-resourced youth services, conception rates are not as high. We hope that can be one positive knock-on effect.' nYoung people interested in finding out more can call the Vale Royal Youth Work Team on 01606 41492.


Q What is the youth hub? A It is high profile 'shop windows' for youth work. Staff work with young people and the hub is a visible commitment to young people in the area.

Q What will be there? A It would be an accessible information and meeting point with, for example, a cyber café and a library of resources as well as a point of contact with local youth workers and others who work with young people. It would not be the only places where youth work happens in Northwich, but it will be its focal point and the centre of its delivery.

Q What else will it do? A The hub will be home to the Youth Issues Group - a forum between the county council's youth service, young people, voluntary organisations and other agencies and individuals concerned with young people's issues including Connexions, Youth Offenders Teams and funding bodies.