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Youth bus runs out of road

PUBLISHED: 10:00 13 May 2010 | UPDATED: 09:41 01 August 2010

AN invaluable youth service covering three rural towns is in jeopardy after plans for future funding collapsed.

The Four Towns Community Bus has visited Beccles, Bungay and Halesworth for the past four years and has been lauded for its role in combating anti-social behaviour.

AN invaluable youth service covering three rural towns is in jeopardy after plans for future funding collapsed.

The Four Towns Community Bus has visited Beccles, Bungay and Halesworth for the past four years and has been lauded for its role in combating anti-social behaviour.

But last night the organisation that manages the service confirmed that funding would run out at the end of this month- and issued an urgent plea for help.

The mobile youth centre, provided by Waveney Community Forum, visits the towns on alternate Friday, Saturday, and Sunday evenings. The bus also currently visits other towns in Waveney, such as Lowestoft and Wrentham, but funding for these services will still be in place in June.

It provides a place for 13 to 19-year-olds to meet up and enjoy a range of equipment, such as internet accessible laptop computers and a television with DVD player and Playstation2. It also has information and advice for teenagers, and offers educational talks on subjects important to young people.

For the first three years the service visited Southwold as well as Beccles, Bungay and Halesworth, but this service was stopped last year due to a drop in interest. During this time it was funded predominantly by The Big Lottery, and was kept going for another year by funding from local organisations such as the Suffolk Foundation and LEAP.

It had been hoped that the cash flow would continue from local sources, but Waveney Community Forum were in fact ineligible for the funding it had planned to apply for.

Martyn Burnside, chief officer for the Forum, said it was currently looking for another substantial grant, but would need local emergency funding in the meantime. In Beccles, the bus is positioned at Rigbourne Hill, near the Co-op store and attracts regular weekly users.

The service started in June 2006, and was an idea originally put forward by young people in Halesworth. Ezra Leverett, of Halesworth Town Council, said that the bus has been hugely popular with teenagers in the town.

“If we've got a successful vehicle, in more ways than one, to entertain and give a direction to the youth in the Waveney area, then we would urge anyone who can support this to do so,” he said.

Sandra Leverett, chair of Halesworth Town Council, added that the town council would do everything it could to support it, but stressed it they do not have the financial resources to keep it going.

Chris Reeve, rural community development officer for Bungay, Beccles and Halesworth, whose main activities are in Bungay, said: "It seems to be well supported in Bungay and we would be very sad to see it go."

The project has been supported by Suffolk Constabulary and Insp Richard Gubbins from the safer neighbourhood team said it provides a positive contribution to tackling anti-social behaviour.

If you can help, telephone Martyn Burnside on 01502 558350.

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