Heworth Labour councillors say they fear for the future of the 68 Centre after the former Liberal Democrat council allowed the building to fall into disrepair. The building is now deemed unfit, with an Executive report last year stating that organisations will soon have to move out. Yet the current Liberal Democrat-led council is still looking to start a consultation on transferring the building through an ‘asset transfer’ process.
The council has already established that no one wants to take over the building in its current state, and ward councillors are now calling on the council to invest in the building so it can serve a useful purpose, both for the local community and the wider city.
Labour’s Heworth Councillor Bob Webb said: “The 68 Centre has been run into the ground really, and you have to wonder whether or not this is a planned approach of managed decline by the Liberal Democrats, so that the building can be demolished and replaced with something else, or even sold off to the highest bidder.
“The building was used for youth services, something for which the city is crying out and for which it could be used again. We want to see the council give a serious commitment to investing in the building and to do away with the farcical idea that someone will want to take on a building with asbestos in it that requires around £200k spending on it in the next few years. The Executive is about to commit to a larger figure for a city centre building, so I hope it will consider giving the 68 Centre a similar focus”.
Councillors have held a public meeting with various ideas put forward for how the building could be used in future. But discussions have led to no positive outcome to date, with many charitable or voluntary organisations lacking the capital funding required to make the building structurally sound.
Fellow Heworth ward councillor, Claire Douglas said: “There is huge potential for the 68 Centre to provide decent space for local community use and for organisations running activities for city-wide groups, as have taken place there recently, but it requires investment. The roof needs replacing and the windows are rotting.
“The current council is borrowing tens of millions to fund other capital schemes, and could easily fund these repairs if the political will was there to commit to community venues in all parts of the city, not just in some”.