AN ANGRY resident stormed out of a meeting in disgust over ‘youth discrimination’ at a council-owned community centre in Bury St Edmunds.
“I fought apartheid when I lived in South Africa, I fought inequality in New York in the 60s and 70s – I’ve fought against prejudice and discrimination all my life and I don’t want to be associated with any place that has prejudice against young people,” said Howard Estate resident Tom Murry.
He walked out of the Newbury Community Centre, in St Olaves Road, during a Howard Estate Association of Residents and Tenants (Heart) meeting last week, vowing not to return until it was available to the whole community.
The centre, run by a management committee, will not allow young people to use it for a club, despite a church group and a youth worker being prepared to give up their time for free.
Cllr Paul Hopfensperger, who represents the St Olaves ward on St Edmundsbury Borough Council, said: “We want to spread the use of the Newbury Centre as a youth club because a community centre is for the whole community, not a select group in the community.”
Ivy Goodman, committee chairman, said the centre’s past experience with youth clubs had been costly.
She added that its hall was unavailable and did not have the cupboard space a youth club would require.
But Mr Murray said: “If we expect young people to be part of our community and not end up like those in major cities being disenfranchised with nothing to do, this can’t go on. We’re asking for a respected church group to run a club one day a week.”
At St Edmundsbury’s council meeting on Tuesday, Mr Murray asked if the borough could do anything about the ‘discrimination’.
Community safety portfolio holder Robert Everitt said that while the council owned the building it was leased and run by the centre committee, but he hoped the various groups could be brought together.
He added: “We will endeavour to ensure this venture will be provided for at the community centre.”
Later, when discussing transferring the running of all centres to community groups, Cllr Hopfensperger expressed local concern that only committee members were allowed in Newbury Centre committee meetings.
Scrutiny committee chairman David Nettleton replied: “You would wouldn’t transfer anything until you’ve got a structure in place. This centre appears to be run by an exclusive sect and that won’t do.”