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New Dorking Youth Centre up and running

A group of teenagers has helped Surrey County Council design their new youth centre in Dorking.

The centre is the result of an agreement Surrey County Council has forged with Waitrose, and the project hasn’t cost the council a penny.

Waitrose is planning to redevelop its Dorking store in South Street, and the proposals involve the relocation of the council’s Mulberry Youth Centre. Waitrose acquired the property from Surrey in exchange for the freehold to the former Malthouse pub in Mill Lane. Waitrose has also generously paid for the refurbishment and covered all other costs involved in the transaction. The council only has to pick up the ongoing running and maintenance costs, which will be lower than the Mulberry Centre because the Malthouse has been newly renovated to a high standard.

A group of 18 young people, calling themselves the M2 Project Team, have had a real say in the shaping of the new youth centre. Nine were existing Mulberry members, the others representatives of Mole Valley Youth Voice, local schools and Dorking Football Club’s Youth Café.

Kay Hammond, Cabinet Member with responsibility for the youth service, said: “The vision is for this large centre to become a hive of activity seven days a week in response to local need. We are keen to work closely with young people to make sure we provide what is wanted and needed. Versatility of different spaces was part of the brief, so that the centre will be able to accommodate a wide variety of different activities in the future. The young people also chose the name of the centre, and helped us decide on furniture and equipment.”

The Malthouse offers a first class facility for local young people. As well as meeting rooms, a “loud” area containing DJ equipment and games consoles, and a “quiet area”, it offers them a well-equipped skills centre. The accommodation includes a large well-equipped kitchen, a computer room, an arts and crafts room for such activities as arts, photography and sewing, and a hair salon, complete with two shampooing stations and four for hair-cutting.

Outside, a MUGA (multi-use games area) and patio area provide opportunities for sports and barbecues.

The centre’s other vital role is as a local base for youth workers to work and to provide targeted support. Having the Youth Support Service in the centre of Dorking is a huge step forward in helping all of Dorking’s youth to participate in education, training and employment. In addition The Youth Consortium will deliver centre-based youth work as part of a commission to increase such provision in the town.

Waitrose Branch Manager, Alan Johnson, said:”Securing the future of the Mulberry Centre and providing them with a first class facility was an absolute priority when bringing forward plans to redevelop our shop. It’s important our younger Dorking residents have a place like this which encourages them to participate in a variety of activities and it’s great to see that they have been involved in its design. We are delighted that we have been able to help deliver the new centre as well as commit our own future to Dorking town centre with a quality new store, which we look forward to starting work on next year.”

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