Youth venue vision moves closer

LORNA MARSH Work to launch what will become the biggest youth venue in the country was on the home straight last night as demolition inside a historic banking hall in the heart of Norwich came to an end.

LORNA MARSH

Work to launch what will become the biggest youth venue in the country was on the home straight last night as demolition inside a historic banking hall in the heart of Norwich came to an end.

Three years after its trustees bought the 18th century Barclays hall in Norwich's Bank Plain, the multi-million pound Open project is moving ahead.

The venue is set to be a safe gathering place for young people, with an alcohol-free bar, restaurant facilities, internet café, gym, live music stage, studios and training rooms available to those in the 13 to 25 age group.

A moveable mezzanine floor will be installed as well as a climbing wall linking the different levels for those seeking less conventional means than lifts and stairs to get about.

Les Brown, project construction manager and trustee, said the contract to redevelop the inside of the hall was now going out to tender with the year-long final stage of work expected to start in the summer.

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The non-profit making Lind Trust, headed by entrepreneur Graham Dacre, will have spent more than £6m buying and redeveloping the building, £350,000 of which has come from Norwich City Council.

His son, Russ Dacre, trustee and project director of the Open Youth Trust which is overseeing the scheme, said: “The completion of the demolition work is a massive step forward for the project.

“It has taken us three-and-a- bit years to get here, with a massive fund-raising campaign which has nearly come to a conclusion and it is great to see the final phase coming together.”

David Mills, 18, a member of the Open Youth Forum that contributed ideas to the building's development, said: “It was very exciting when we first saw what it would look like; it is such a big achievement for the youth forum and everyone on the trust.

About £300,000 is still needed for the centre and trustees are continuing to raise money throughout the building's redevelopment.

Contact trustees on 01603 763111.