Are young people from rural Chorley travelling to the borough's Youth Zone?

Chorley Youth Zone opened last May and offers arts, sports and leisure activities
Chorley Youth Zone opened last May and offers arts, sports and leisure activities
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Chorley’s Youth Zone is to explore whether more needs to be done to attract young people from rural parts of the borough to the town centre venue.

But its chief executive asked for patience and said the organisation had already exceeded many of the targets which it had set itself since it opened last May.

READ MORE >>> Queues in the street as Chorley Youth Zone opens its doors
Janine Blythe also told a meeting of Chorley Council’s liaison committee that she was “disappointed” that the prospect of a similar facility opening in Preston appeared to have passed.

Borough and parish councillors heaped praise on the project, which has the largest membership of any of its sister schemes in the North West - one in three young people in Chorley has now joined.

“Our target was for 3,000 members in the first year, but we have hit 5,000 after just eight months,” Ms. Blythe said.

“When we first opened, we were getting 200-300 visits per night, which was actually unsustainable - now it has settled down to about 160.”

But some councillors expressed concern that young people in less central areas could be losing out, because of a lack of public transport. The meeting was told that the facility already has “a good distribution” of members from across the borough.

“We are happy to look at whether we need to co-ordinate travel into the centre,” Ms. Blythe said.

“But we have to assess whether young people from those areas would come. There is the possibility of doing outreach work first, where we go out to [those communities] and get to know them.

“When you’re coming to [somewhere like the Youth Zone] from a village, it might be more daunting, so it’s about building trust and making them want to come,” she added.

Deputy chief executive of Chorley Council, Chris Sinnott, said the authority had to balance any support which it could give with “the capacity of what the Youth Zone can offer”. The authority has committed £100,000 for the facility in its draft budget for the next financial year.

Meanwhile, councillors heard that the Youth Zone is still trying to secure funding for its core services, which have expanded beyond the charity’s expectations for its first year of operation.

Unscheduled developments have included the formation of groups focused on healthy relationships and supporting those questioning their sexuality, as well as giving pupils from special schools access to the centre during the day, when it would otherwise have been closed.

Ms. Blythe said that mentoring and outreach work was next on her wish list for the Youth Zone to deliver.

“For some young people, having dedicated time with a trusted adult would make a world of difference [to them]. Sometimes it would only be needed for a short period, for others longer,” she said.

Chorley councillor Steve Holgate described the work being undertaken by the Youth Zone as “faultless”.

“It was astounding to see young people making presentations at a business breakfast event, when they were devoid of confidence just a few weeks earlier,” he said.