Plans progress for development in Thurrock Youth Zone

A NEW partnership has been formed between the national youth charity OnSide and Tilbury Towns Fund Board to use their combined experience and skills to dramatically expand the opportunities available to young people in the area, by creating a brand-new Youth Zone. Youth Zones are state-of-the-art spaces for young people filled with energy and incredible facilities and staffed by highly-skilled youth workers that believe in young people and help them to achieve their potential.

Aimed at young people aged eight to 19, or up to 25 for those with additional needs, it will open seven days per week. Members will have the opportunity to access over 20 activities every night, ranging from sports such as football, boxing and climbing, to creative arts, music, drama and employability training as well as dedicated youth worker support – all for just 50p per visit and £5 annual membership.

The Towns Board gave the green light for feasibility and planning studies for the project earlier this year and talks have since been ongoing about a potential location. The new Youth Zone will cost £8.8million to build and will be funded by a combination of funding from Tilbury Towns Fund Board, subject to government approval in August, and private sector donations.

A number of sites options have been examined and a preferred site for the Youth Zone has been identified on Anchor Fields. This is still subject to further feasibility assessments and will be the subject of a formal planning consultation proposed to take place later this year. An early impression of what the Youth Zone could look like has been released today, although this could change after public consultation and through the planning process.

The planning consultation will give residents the opportunity to give their feedback on plans. Before this, OnSide actively welcomes feedback on the project with residents invited to email enquiries@onsideyouthzones.org. To date, OnSide has engaged with over 1,000 local young people in Thurrock about the Youth Zone, with 81% saying they would come to the Youth Zone in Tilbury.

OnSide’s Chief Executive Kathryn Morley said: “We are extremely grateful to Tilbury Towns Fund Board for showing its belief in the borough’s young people by backing a new Youth Zone. Youth Zones are inspirational places that give young people support from trusted youth workers, and countless opportunities, from meeting new friends to finding their passions and talents. This is the start of an exciting journey and the OnSide team is already hard at work with local partners to turn this into a reality.”

Partnerships will be at the heart of the development of Thurrock Youth Zone and it will be a significant asset to the community, adding to the youth services already available locally and working alongside other youth organisations to deliver for young people.

Kevin Sadler, Tilbury Towns Fund Board member and CEO of the Gateway Learning Community, a multi-academy trust of five schools located in Tilbury said: “The partnership with OnSide is a game-changer for our young people and the wider community. It is the last piece in the puzzle. We have five good schools in Tilbury and before long, these will be complemented by a state-of-the-art facility providing the best leisure activities and personal support beyond the school day and at weekends, to transform the opportunities available to every young person in Tilbury and beyond.”

Chair of Tilbury Towns Fund Board, Peter Ward, said: “Tilbury Towns Fund has put young people at the forefront of our programme of transformation. It was clear this was a priority for residents who live in the town at the start of this process and we want to ensure Tilbury becomes a beacon for young people who live locally and across the entire borough. A home away from home where they can thrive and access key services to improve their prospects, make friends and boost their health and wellbeing.”

Local young people will also be heavily involved in the project – OnSide will set up a Young People’s Development Group which will make several key decisions for the Youth Zone, from its branding and name to the recruitment of potential staff members.   

As an independent charity, Thurrock’s Youth Zone will become part of the growing OnSide Network of Youth Zones, a collaboration of 14 independent local youth charities based on the successful OnSide model which together support 50,000 young people nationwide.

Anyone wanting to contact OnSide should email enquiries@onsideyouthzones.org. The charity will also have representatives present at Saturday’s Port of Tilbury Day answering any questions about the Youth Zone.

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