Councillors ask for rethink over Preston Youth Zone plan

A Youth Zone for Preston has been in the pipeline for nearly a decade.   It was originally due to be built in Bow Lane, but the plan moved to the bus station in 2013.
A Youth Zone for Preston has been in the pipeline for nearly a decade. It was originally due to be built in Bow Lane, but the plan moved to the bus station in 2013.
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Lancashire County Council might have to rethink its decision to pull the plug on Preston’s Youth Zone in its current form.

The authority’s cabinet voted last week to withdraw from a plan to build the facility at the city’s recently-revamped bus station, after it did not receive any applications from organisations willing to run it.

READ MORE >>> Preston Youth Zone thrown a lifeline

Council leader Geoff Driver did ask officers to investigate if there were an alternative model which could be delivered “in the current climate” - but he now faces a demand to recommit to the bus station blueprint.

Opposition councillors have applied for the decision to be ‘called in’. It will now go before a cross-party committee which has the power to request cabinet thinks again.

Labour opposition leader Azhar Ali, one of the signatories of the call-in, says the proposal put forward by Cllr Driver to look for a new site was “very wooly”.

“Will there be a budget for it or was it just an empty gesture to pacify [protesters] in the room at the time?” Cllr Ali asked.

“There was a lack of consultation with OnSide [the charity behind the planned Youth Zone] and those organisations likely to be affected by the decision.”

“It also has a potential knock-on effect for county council services and policing,” Cllr Ali said.

Liberal Democrat member John Potter, who has also signed the call-in, said: “We have to be absolutely sure that the advice from officers has been correctly interpreted.

“Given the last-minute addition of the recommendation [from Cllr Driver], I don’t believe the cabinet, let alone bankbench councillors, knew exactly what was being agreed upon,” Cllr Potter added.

The call-in application has been signed by eight opposition members. It says the decision reached by cabinet “failed to be clear in terms of aims and outcomes”.

The application also claims that “not all the relevant information was put before the cabinet” before the £8.5m scheme was scrapped.

The council’s internal scrutiny committee will now consider the request on 21st August. If they decide to call-in the decision, the authority will have to publish a response to the request for reconsideration and outline its reasons if it does not come to a different conclusion.

Lancashire County Council said: "We can confirm that the Cabinet decision about the proposed Preston Youth Zone, taken on Thursday 9 August, has been 'called in' for consideration by the Internal Scrutiny Committee on Tuesday 21 August.

"This request for a call-in was signed by nine County Councillors, representing more than one political group. The decision cannot be implemented, until this call-in procedure is completed."