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Youngsters' sadness at arson attack

PUBLISHED: 09:48 30 October 2009 | UPDATED: 15:28 03 July 2010

FOR many of the youngsters using the fire-hit Newtown Youth Centre, the building provides a lifeline preventing them getting involved in anti-social behaviour in an area where there are few other facilities for children their age.

FOR many of the youngsters using the fire-hit Newtown Youth Centre, the building provides a lifeline preventing them getting involved in anti-social behaviour in an area where there are few other facilities for children their age.

Such is their fondness for the centre and its manager Julie Harding and secretary Carl Harding, that many of them rushed to help clear away the charred equipment and re-decorate the building's interior so it could be re-opened as quickly as possible.

Over 10 children, aged between 12 and 21, took part in the salvage operation at their Jellicoe Road base on Wednesday after hearing about the arson attack the previous day.

Charlie Hall, 15, is a regular visitor to the centre where he enjoys playing football with his friends. He heard about the fire damage on Wednesday and rushed to the centre to help out.

The Yarmouth High School student, of Byron Road, said: “I found out the day after it happened. All the boys were gutted because Carl told us that he might not be able to carry on. All the boys were gutted because Carl takes us on trips and enables us to get away from this area for a while.”

Craig Hatto, 21, of Hamilton Road, said Mr Harding took the youngsters on regular trips to such places as the London Eye, Norwich ski slopes and theme parks. This weekend the group will be heading off to Alton Towers theme park in Staffordshire for a day out.

He added: “I don't know who could have done this. I have been thinking who, why, what reason would they want to do this and I can't think of anything. Carl does a good turn for us as the centre's secretary.”

Mr Hatto was helping to re-paint the building's interior as he was a painter and decorator by trade.

Having grown up in Luton, Craig said he wished the Bedfordshire town had had a similar centre for him when he was growing up.

His brother Todd, 19, was equally concerned about the loss of the facility, but was pleased to hear the centre had been nominatedfor an award from the People's Millions.

He said: “I think what has happened is a joke. I think it is bang out of order that somebody has done this. I was shocked when I heard because we were supposed to come up here to use the centre, but when we arrived it was black inside.”

Shane Rooney, 12, of Milton Road, is one of the centre's regular users and meets up with friends every Monday to play football and use the centre's games consoles.

“I was devastated. I can't understand why they have done this to the youth centre. The centre is vital, not just for me, but also for my friends because otherwise we would be hanging around on the streets doing no good. It provides us with something to do,” Shane said.

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