An ambitious project to create a multi-million pound Youth Zone for Preston’s youngsters has been beset by delays.
Work was scheduled to start on the facility in September – but no work has begun and the date has already been pushed back by several months.
A tendering process to choose the operator for the site is due to start in the New Year, County Hall has said today.
Only once this process is complete will the “final design” of the flagship venue be confirmed, casting doubt on the scheduled opening date in January 2019.
OnSide, the charity behind Youth Zones across the country, is expected to be only interested party but the tender procedure must take place to satisfy “legal requirements”.
Both County Hall and OnSide have remained tight-lipped as to why the process is only just about to start.
This is needed to ensure Lancashire County Council is complying with its legal requirements.
But the delays may see Preston slip down OnSide’s priority list with several other locations further on in the process.
Opposition and Labour group leader County Coun Azhar Ali called the delay “disappointing”.
He said: “The Youth Zone project is overdue so it’s disappointing there is a delay. We would like it to be delivered on time and on budget as Preston needs a Youth Zone. The bus station development will become the focal point for the city centre and the Youth Zone is part of that.”
The new building, part of the vast £24m regeneration of the bus station site, is set to provide a range of facilities for young people including sports, arts and music.
It received planning approval in December last year, with PYZ chairman Guy Topping saying it will “change the lives of thousands of young people”.
A spokesman for OnSide Youth Zones told the Lancashire Post said they could not comment on the missed start date because of the imminent tender process.
A post on its website still states “work on the YZ is programmed to start in September 2017, with completion expected in January 2019.”
The spokesman added: “We are aware of the proposed tender and look forward to evaluating it when it is available.
“We are not in a position to comment until this process is complete.”
When the Conservatives took control of County Hall from Labour in May, council leader Geoff Driver said major projects approved by the previous administration would be reviewed amid unprecedented budget cuts.
But he told the Lancashire Post earlier this year “the county council has resolved to build the Youth Zone next to the bus station”, despite previously voicing concerns about the location.
A previous incarnation of the Youth Zone plans – located near County Hall on Bow Lane – was mothballed several years ago.
In response to the already three-month delay in construction work starting, Coun Driver said: “Lancashire County Council is intending to publish the tender documents in January 2018, with the expectation of identifying the operator by early March.
“The decision to co-locate of the Youth Offending Team service within the Youth Zone has had an influence on the timing of the procurement but we think it is important that this information is part of the tender process.
“Any changes in design would involve reconfigurations of existing planned spaces, and would therefore not require any further planning permission.
“The county council is currently preparing to go out to tender to procure the operator to deliver the Youth Zone service.
“This is needed to ensure Lancashire County Council is complying with its legal requirements.
“The service operator will work alongside the Preston Youth Offending Team service, which will also be located within the Youth Zone building.
“Once the procurement has concluded, the final design of the new building will be agreed.”
The city’s Youth Zone will be part of the larger bus station site £23m redevelopment that will see the concourse area opened out as a public square.
Works on the overall site are being cosmpleted in four stages so that the station can remain open throughout the renovation phase. The second stage has been recently finished.
The three-storey YZ itself will include a football pitch and climbing wall and will be located on the north side of the new public plaza.
The planning application stated the site will have “a central recreation space, including a fitness suite, dance performing arts, boxing and martial arts studios with activity rooms for music, film, multi-media, enterprise and a range of spaces for informal education, sports hall and roof top sports pitch with associated changing and other facilities.”
Plans unveiled for initial site on Bow Lane, behind county hall.
Bulldozers begin demolition work
Petition launched to stop the facility being built on Bow Lane.
Bus station restoration project unveiled, including new Youth Zone location after Bow Lane plans are mothballed.
Design and build teams have been appointed to deliver the refurbishment and redevelopment of Preston Bus Station and the new Preston Youth Zone.
Application for planning permission submitted to the town hall
Planning approval is granted for the Youth Zone by the city’s planning committee, hailed as a “significant step forward”.