Friday, 22 October 2021

Youth centre site sold for £3m to home firm

THE site of the former Henley Youth Centre is to be sold for £3million to a

THE site of the former Henley Youth Centre is to be sold for £3million to a care home company.

The trustees of the Deanfield Avenue centre, which closed last year, have reached an agreement for B&M Care to buy the 0.6 acres of land.

The sale includes a derelict plot behind the centre which is owned by The Henley College.

The proceeds will be split between the Thamesfield Youth Association and the college with the former receiving a slightly larger share.

B&M Care, which operates more than 20 care homes in the South and Midlands, was chosen from 27 bidders for the site and the deal is expected to be completed on July 31.

Clive Wilkinson, who chairs the association’s trustees, said: “We are delighted that we can now move on. The sale price is slightly more than we expected but it is a valuable site.”

The charity is likely to invest its share of the money and spend the yield on youth projects in the town.

Mr Wilkinson said: “We feel we can do far more with interest of £30,000 to £40,000 a year to spend on projects to support young people than if we gave money away left, right and centre.

“Our legal mandate as a charity is to provide support and encouragement for young people in Henley and all the income generated from the proceeds of the sale of the site will be dedicated to that end over the coming years.

“Once the sale has been completed the trustees will be publishing guidelines and criteria for how interested parties can apply for funding.”

The centre was closed in December after the trustees announced that they could no longer afford the £45,000-a-year running costs.

Mr Wilkinson reiterated that the decision to sell was “not taken lightly” but was driven by a lack of funding and a reduction in the number of young people attending the centre regularly.

He said: “We had already started working with other groups, such as NOMAD and the YMCA, which are running junior youth groups on our behalf away from the youth centre.

“This made us realise we could still be effective and support young people in the town without the ever-increasing costs of running an old and inefficient building.”

The youth centre had existed for more than 50 years having moved to Deanfield Avenue in 1961 from Thamesfield House in Wargrave Road, which is now a retirement home.

The association agreed to move in return for an annual contribution towards the centre’s overheads from Oxfordshire County Council.

However, in 2011, the council said it could no longer afford the grant due to “unprecedented budgetary constraints.”

The trustees argued that the agreement was binding in perpetuity but the council stood firm after taking legal advice.

Henley Town Council then pledged to give £10,000 a year for three years.

In October 2013, the association’s annual meeting heard that the youth centre was forecast to lose £20,000 a year and its future was uncertain.

The site was then allocated 25 homes under the joint Henley and Harpsden neighbourhood plan, which is now at second draft stage.

B&M Care began in 1972 as B&M Investments. It owns 22 residential and dementia homes situated in Berkshire, Buckinghamshire, Hertfordshire and Northamptonshire.

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