Arson-hit youth club in lottery hope

DEVASTATED volunteers were counting the cost of an arson attack on a Great Yarmouth youth centre this week- just days before hearing they had moved a step closer to getting �50,000 funding for a new centre.

DEVASTATED volunteers were counting the cost of an arson attack on a Great Yarmouth youth centre this week- just days before hearing they had moved a step closer to getting �50,000 funding for a new centre.

Tearful Newtown Youth Centre manager Julie Harding feared the attack could derail the centre's bid to secure funding for a new �96,000 state-of-the-art facility, unless volunteers and youngsters could re-open the centre by Monday .

This week, ITV charity The People's Millions announced the youth centre would be going head-to-head with an Essex-based charity for the chance to win �50,000 of Big Lottery Fund cash.

Anglia TV camera crews are due to visit the centre, in Jellicoe Road, Yarmouth to do a short film of the work it does, which will be broadcast alongside a similar film about the Harlow centre after an Anglia news bulletin on November 25.

But Mrs Harding was worried that unless the centre could be re-opened, the camera crews would have nothing to film and vital cash would be lost for the new centre, which will be eco-friendly and boast a modern function room, computer room and cookery room.

The 60x45ft building will be built on the site's basketball court and will replace the current dilapidated building.

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She said: “We were very pleased to be nominated. We have been fighting for funding for the last five years. This is what we have been fighting for. This is what we want, a new building for the kids.

“It is just a shame that we have got this far and somebody has gone and done this to us.”

A number of valuables were stolen during the arson attack, including two games consoles, while a television was found dumped on the bank behind the youth centre.

The kitchen and floors inside the converted ship container were badly damaged by the fire, while a stereo system and drum kit were destroyed.

Carl Harding, the centre's secretary, dashed to the scene at 10am on Tuesday after a member of the public called him about the fire and found smoke coming out of the centre's windows and doors, while a gate leading to the centre was hanging from its hinges.

He said: “It was like a blast furnace. Smoke was everywhere, coming out of the windows and doors.”

Yarmouth MP Tony Wright said he would do his best to secure grants to help the club move on from the incident.

He said: “I am extremely angry that somebody has taken it upon themselves to try and destroy this important community asset.”

Yarmouth county councillor Tom Garrod has been actively involved in promoting the youth centre project since being elected as one of the youngest councillors in the country in May.

He said: “I was upset to hear this devastating news. It's the unbelievable work of people like Carl and Julie that the wider community do not appreciate.

“Newtown Youth Centre is to me an integral part of the local community in giving young people a rare sense of pride and belonging.

“The person or people who did this are the lowest of the low. Despite knowing that they have destroyed the property, I also know that they have failed to destroy the heart and soul of Newtown Youth Centre.”

Borough councillor Mike Taylor, who represents Central and Northgate ward, has also been supporting the campaign for the new youth centre and has visited the centre to offer help since Tuesday's arson attack.

He said: “I am just absolutely disgusted, I just can't believe how anybody could be so loathsome to do such a thing.”

A police spokesman confirmed the fire was discovered at approximately 10am on Tuesday and the offenders entered the compound by lifting a large iron gate from its hinges before damaging two locks to get into the youth centre.

Anyone with information in relation to the incident should phone PC Dave Baxter at Yarmouth police on 0845 4564567 or Crimestoppers on 0800 555111.