Mill Youth Centre set for expansion

Mill Youth Centre set for expansion

Proposals approved to build affordable homes in Easton and develop new and improved facilities for Mill Youth Centre.

15 March 2022

Bristol City Council’s Cabinet has approved proposals that will enable the delivery of affordable homes in one of the city’s most deprived areas, alongside the development of new and improved facilities at the Mill Youth Centre, home to the Empire Fighting Chance (EFC) charity.

The charity is working with Sovereign Housing Association, a registered social housing provider, on a proposed development of 38 new affordable homes on the site in Easton. 

In addition to providing much-needed affordable homes, the proposed development will fund works to improve facilities at the youth centre and will help to secure EFC’s long-term finances. As part of the proposals, an indoor basketball court would be built, and the existing gym would be expanded. The costs of the affordable housing, basketball court and a new car park would be paid by Sovereign, as well as a contribution to the gym expansion. 

The proposed design uses the site in an innovative way, making efficient use of space to provide both new homes and the new indoor basketball court on the site. 

The youth centre in Easton is owned by the council and leased to EFC for a ‘peppercorn’ rent under the Community Asset Transfer (CAT) scheme. 

The council will support the expansion and the new affordable homes by granting a new CAT lease at a notional rent for the current gym site, as well as granting a new long-term lease of the basketball court site, also on a peppercorn rent. A CAT is where a property is leased to a community or voluntary organisation to manage, usually for less than market value. 

In February, the council set out proposals to tackle the housing crisis using a range of methods, including the disposal of brownfield land to housing partners, supporting them with specialist delivery support to maximise affordable housing delivery. By taking this innovative, collaborative approach at the Mill Youth Centre, the proposals will help to meet the council’s ambitious target to deliver 1,000 affordable homes a year from 2024. 

EFC is one of Bristol’s best-known and most influential charities, and the proposed improvements will mean it can increase the services it can offer local people, including continued free use by Evergreen Primary School. 

EFC uses non-contact boxing, education and mentoring to support young people from deprived communities to make changes in their lives. In 2021, EFC helped over 4,900 eight to 25-year-olds across the south west and Wales, including tackling knife crime and reducing other criminal and anti-social behaviour. 

Cllr Tom Renhard, Cabinet Member for Housing Delivery and Homes said: “This is an example of our new approach to delivering affordable homes. Working with Registered Providers, community groups and other partners, we are finding innovative solutions to tackle Bristol’s housing crisis. By taking this approach we can get homes built in sustainable brownfield locations, where they are needed, and all while supporting the community spaces people need to thrive.” 

Cllr Ellie King, Cabinet Member for Public Health, Communities and Bristol One City said: “Empire Fighting Chance has transformed the lives of thousands of young people in and around Bristol, and is playing a key role in reducing crime and anti-social behaviour. Enabling EFC and Sovereign to make these improvements to the Mill Youth Centre will help the charity to provide more and better facilities to serve the community into the future. By combining the expansion with the delivery of much-needed affordable housing, the proposals will add immense value to life in Bristol through new homes and improved health and well-being.”

Martin Bisp, Co-founder and CEO of Empire Fighting Chance said: “The recent Cabinet decision is extremely important for Empire Fighting Chance.

“We have been struggling with capacity for a while and the pandemic has exacerbated the challenges vulnerable children face. This will allow us to work with significantly more young people who are most in need. 

“It also helps us secure our long term future, so we are extremely grateful to Bristol City Council for their support.”

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