Preston Youth Zone opening delayed and rising costs revealed

A design image of the Youth Zone next to the bus station
A design image of the Youth Zone next to the bus station

The opening date for Preston’s multi-million pound Youth Zone has been pushed back to late 2019 - and that is reliant on County Hall finding an operator.

The flagship facility, a major part of the bus station redevelopment, was initially tabled to open next January.

But the process has been beset by delays and the 55-week construction project is not scheduled to start until October.

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A procurement process to find an operator is set to begin, council bosses have said, and updated plans will be discussed by the county council cabinet this week.

If agreed by cabinet, the new operator will take on the operational and financial risk associated with the running of the Youth Zone.

According to a county hall report, the cost of the scheme is now around the £8.5m mark - an increase of £1.6m - with the local authority capping its contribution at £5.925m.

This means an operator for the facility, which will accommodate the city’s youth offending service, will have to provide £2.6m, not the £1m price tag initially expected.

Cabinet members will be warned the rising cost will “increase the risk that no operator will come forward”.

Geoff Driver CBE, leader of the county council, said: "We recognise that this would be a welcome asset for young people, and we've already shown a significant and continuing financial commitment to the provision of a Preston Youth Zone.

"However, in common with all county council budgets, we have to make sure that we're keeping a close eye on these plans to get the right financial arrangements in place.

"In light of increased costs and changes since the start of this project, we can’t simply commit the county council to more spending on the Youth Zone, it's important that any operator also takes their share of the risk and responsibility."

Youth Zone charity OnSide - which operates several sites across the country, including Chorley and Wigan - has been attached to the project since it was first introduced. They will now have to decide whether to bid for the Preston site.