Campaign to save Saffron Walden youth club gathers pace

Fairycroft House

Fairycroft House - Credit: Archant

PUBLIC demonstrations, petitions and a Facebook group have all been used in a bid to ensure a much-loved and long-established youth club stays in its current location.

Users of The Croft, based at Fairycroft House in Saffron Walden, have started a campaign in light of the uncertainty surrounding the historic, Essex County Council-owned building.

Running costs continue to be an issue at the 19th century building and a proposal is on the table to close it and move services, including the youth club, into the Social Services building next door.

A spokesman for the Save the Croft campaign described the alternative as “insulting” as the space “bears no comparison” to current facilities.

She added: “Fairycroft House’s closure would be detrimental to a fast-growing community as well as short-sighted from a financial perspective.

“It is accessible by groups from all over town and encourages integration. Saffron Walden is growing rapidly and will continue to grow.

“Communities need more, not fewer, facilities. A strong sense of community is what keeps the heart of a town beating.”

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A Facebook group has attracted over 250 ‘likes’ in little over a week, while almost 800 signatures have been gathered on a petition aimed at keeping the building in public use.

Teenagers also staged a peaceful demonstration at a meeting of the youth strategy working group last week. Three were co-opted onto the group. One of those, 14-year-old Anna Percival, described The Croft as a “second home”.

Young people meet at the club, taking advantage of sports equipment and other facilities including an X-Box, TV, coffee bar and recording studio. There are two large halls for activities, meaning the building can be used by different groups at the same time.

Services built around the specific needs of vulnerable community members are also well supported, with counselling, open centre evenings, health care, young carers and even a theatre group based there.

The group believes the building – which has been used for youth and community purposes since 1952 – could be used more efficiently.

“Present user groups could easily be expanded upon,” said the spokesman. “It could be hired out far more frequently and there could be proactive energy-saving options to reduce running costs.

“Fairycroft has become increasingly under promoted but that is not an irreversible situation. Motivation, resourcefulness and working together within committed teams would ensure that public funds were saved and treasured community resources preserved for future generations.”

However, ECC’s cabinet member for Education, Cllr Ray Gooding, explained that Fairycroft House is expensive to maintain and manage, while making best use of it is difficult.

He said: “It is becoming increasingly difficult to justify the expenditure, even though the young people are quite attached to the building and that the alternative being offered isn’t what they want.

“But it is clear we need to balance the books. We need to take everybody’s needs into account.”

Yet Cllr Gooding expressed his delight that members of the club had joined the working group, adding: “It is important they are involved in the process. Their input is paramount if we are to tailor the facilities we have got to meet the needs of the area.”

• To follow the campaign or to give your support, search for ‘Save The Croft’ on Facebook.