Wiltshire Publications

Vandals put community centre project at risk

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PLANS for an exciting community centre on the site of the former youth centre have been hindered by vandals.

Last week, vandals smashed a dozen double-glazed windows, ripped out electrical conduits, sprawled graffiti on the walls, and started a small fire inside the building, causing ‘thousands of pounds’ worth of damage.

Local charity, the Westbury Community Project, intends to convert the former youth centre building, located off Eden Vale Road, into a vibrant community hub, offering space to local groups and organisations. 

The building is currently owned by Wiltshire Council, but ownership of the building is in the process of being transferred to the Westbury Community Project, as part of an asset. transfer. However, if the asset transfer takes place before any repairs are carried out, the local charity will be financially responsible for the works.

Supporters of the project and chair of trustees of the group, Richard Hatt, who is also headteacher of Westbury Junior School, are calling for the community and Wiltshire Council to show their support for the project.

Local resident, Tina Devereux, who is a member of POPCAN: the Penleigh & Oldfield Park Community Action Network and supporter of the project, told White Horse News, “A lot of time and effort has been going on behind the scenes for some time now to get this project off the ground. So it saddens and angers us all that a small group of individuals have decided to vandalise and smash the windows and doors of the building. 

“This mindless act of anti-social behaviour could have a disastrous effect on our community project. Thousands of pounds of damage has been caused; money which now will need to be found; money which could have been used to buy fantastic resources for the area. Shame on the individuals who did this! The chances are that you would’ve benefited from this facility in the future.

“But now we need to pull together, more than ever, to show that this isn’t the Westbury we want. We need all partners – including Wiltshire Council – to step up and commit to this town and the opportunity this project gives us, to turn around some really troubling statistics about our community. It isn’t acceptable that Westbury West still sits in the bottom 10% of the country for skills and training or that 27% of children are living in poverty! This community project  gives us a chance to turn this around.

“People do complain that Westbury gets overlooked for services, and there isn’t much to do, and this project will create opportunities and fulfil our local requirements.  Let’s pull together and back the Westbury Community Project and support those people prepared to stand up and provide some leadership in our town.”

Richard Hatt added, “This is symptomatic of the building still being in the hands of Wiltshire Council. The asset transfer has been agreed in principle, but until it is handed over and we can start making it a vibrant community building, we are at risk of incidents like this carrying on.

“We have created a project that is run by the community, for the community, and it is disappointing that a small element of the community is destroying our opportunity. We are on the brink of something fantastic – let’s not spoil it, we do not want to blow this opportunity.

“This now puts pressure on Wiltshire Council who are still responsible for the building. They have to find the funds to make the repairs, or they hand over the building to us, which means we have to find the money for the repairs.

“What I would like to see is us working together with Wiltshire Council – they show their support to the project and work with us to repair the building, funding it together, before they complete the asset transfer. If the community sees things happening with the building, the risk of this happening again will be reduced.”

Wiltshire Council was approached for comment, but had not responded by the time the paper had gone to print.

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