Fresh hope for Four Towns Bus

A MOBILE meeting point and advice centre for young people could be revived by a lottery grant just months after it was partially mothballed.

The Four Towns Bus was a renovated ex-London double decker, which visited Halesworth, Beccles and Bungay and offered a place for young people to spend time together and get advice on a range of issues – including drugs, alcohol and sexual health.

Those aged 13 to 19 could meet on the bus to access the internet, watch television and use a Playstation 2.

For four years it was lauded for combating anti-social behaviour and was popular among its users, but was stopped in the summer after its funding ran out. It continues to visit Wrentham occasionally, but the new bid for up to �50,000 a year could see it reinstated elsewhere.

The idea for the project came from the Halesworth Crime Reduction Panel, which recognised the lack of youth clubs in the area.

It was originally funded mostly by The Big Lottery and kept going for another year by funding from the Suffolk Foundation and LEAP. It is hoped that a Reaching Communities grant from the lottery could soon revive it.

Martyn Burnside, chief officer for the forum, said: “We’ve got some funding in to get to Wrentham at the moment, but we haven’t got any funding to go to the market towns. I’m putting a bid together to re-establish the market town work. To run the bus on an annual basis you’re probably looking in terms of �50,000. It’s not cheap. We’ve had some mechanical issues with it recently. There was a problem with the batteries and the alternator and on a bus they’re not cheap to replace,” he added.

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Applying for the funding is a two-stage process which could take as long as six months.

A preliminary bid is expected to be sent in the next three weeks and, if that is successful, a final application can be submitted, and the results should be received 17 weeks later.

“There’s an awful lot of support out there for it, but it has no funding. Certainly the feedback that we’ve had is that it’s very much needed,” he said. When the service visits Wrentham it attracts between 10 and 15 people.