Sunday, 13 June 2021

Youth club could be made homeless by asbestos find

THE youth club in Sonning Common has been left effectively homeless due to problems with asbestos in the building it uses.

Club SC was due to move back into its base at Maiden Erlegh Chiltern Edge in Reades Lane at the start of the new school term earlier this month.

But work to make it safe has still not begun, with the school saying there have been delays finding a contractor.

The work is expected to take between four and eight weeks but a date for it to start has not been set.

The school became an academy and part of the Maiden Erlegh Trust in August, so the ownership of the buildings and land was transferred.

The asbestos was found during an inspection of the building during the last school year and the club, which is run under the auspices of the parish council, was forced to stop using it in June.

Staff in the parish office only found out that the remedial work had not been started at the beginning of this month.

The club has been based at the school for more than 40 years. It has a separate wing of the sports hall which contains all its equipment, including a pool table and table football.

Carole Lewis, who chairs Sonning Common Parish Council, said: “It’s a less than ideal situation. It’s like working with one hand behind your back.

“Clearly the school will have a schedule of work that needs doing and we can understand if the club area is not top of their list of priorities but it’s important to us because we are in charge of the club.”

Parish clerk Philip Collings said the council was anxious that the issue was resolved quickly.

He said: “We do not want this to damage what has been a successful operation for 40 years.

“If we get back in there we will be okay but we are more worried about the new academy, if they take a different view on it.

“They are saying that everything which was agreed before does not carry over.

“The worry is we are going to lose our continuity and this is the only parish for miles which contributes to running a youth club.” Club SC was started in 2011 when the previous youth club closed after Oxfordshire County Council withdrew funding.

The parish council provides about 90 per cent of the £10,000 a year needed to keep it running.

The club met at Peppard War Memorial Hall at the end of last term and has now been temporarily moved to Peppard sports pavilion in Stoke Row Road.

It is continuing to meet on Tuesday evenings for children in years nine, 10 and 11 and Wednesday evenings for years six, seven and eight.

But the sports pavilion is only available until late October, when the parish council could be forced to try to find another temporary location.

Youth leaders have been forced to amend session plans and cancel events because the new venue is smaller and does not have the benefit of the sports hall at the school.

Councillor Lewis said: “In the summer months it’s much easier to go outside. Now we don’t have access to the equipment. We could be in a situation where we have to find another temporary venue but it’s access to the equipment we need.”

Becky Jenkins, who works in the parish office and used to run the youth club, said it was difficult to run the club at a smaller venue.

She said: “We were chasing the school through the summer thinking the work had commenced but then we were surprised when we found out they had not started.

“Events have had to be cancelled as we don’t have the sports hall available to us. Our leader Sunny Smithers has had to shuffle stuff backwards and forwards.

“There is only a small amount of space in the pavilion and there are 35 children who come on Wednesdays, so it gets difficult to manage.”

A spokeswoman for Maiden Erlegh Trust said: “While we appreciate the difficult position Club SC youth club find themselves in regarding finding a suitable venue, our priority must be to ensure the health, safety and wellbeing of everybody using the school’s facilities.

“The school is in the process of selecting a suitable contractor to conduct the remedial works. It is our hope that the works can be completed swiftly and that the school can come to an agreement with Club SC regarding future use of the facility.”

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