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YMCA Is Born Again In Maidstone

These are exciting times for the YMCA in Maidstone as they look forward to the opening of two new community centres, costing in excess of £4 million.

Although the ribbons are not due to be cut for another two years, architects’ designs have left the drawing board and planning permission has already been given for the major development at the YMCA site in Melrose Close, off Cripple Street.

Since the YMCA fell upon hard financial times about five years ago, Gullands’ Managing Partner, Blair Gulland, has been at the centre of negotiations which would see the much-respected brand of YMCA emerge once again to play an active part in the life of the Maidstone community.

Blair is legal adviser to the YMCA in Maidstone and was as pleased as anyone just before Christmas when the deal was sealed that would see a new community and sports centre developed by Taylor Wimpey at Melrose Close, with the other half of the site being developed for housing.

After years of trauma, following the demise of the original centre at Melrose Close, YMCA chairman, Bryan Price, and his Acting Chief Executive, Lynda Dale, are now eagerly looking forward to the day when the new centre opens its doors to the community.

Brian Price

“In addition to the large sports hall which will accommodate all sports such as badminton, basketball and five-a-side soccer, there will be a viewing area, outdoor all-weather junior football pitches, changing rooms, a fitness suite, a pre-school playgroup and rooms suitable for meetings and social activities,”

The new centre is being financed by the sale of the land for housing and is expected to cost about £4 million.

Gullands were also able to offer expertise in the finalisation of the Building Contract with Taylor Wimpey as regards the construction of the new Centre. David Brown, the partner who heads up Gullands’ Construction Department, was involved throughout these negotiations.

There will also be money available from the sale to develop the YMCA facilities at The Children’s House at Tovil, a somewhat down-at-heel building which has been used extensively by the people of the area. It was previously owned by Kent County Council but was purchased recently by the YMCA. The YMCA has, for a number of years, been operating the building as part of their residential outreach programme.

Lynda Dale

“We are hoping to tear this building down, and build in its place an all-purpose community facility which is much needed in the Coombe Farm and Tovil area.”

Maidstone Housing Trust, which is regenerating the Coombe Farm area, has been approached to contribute half a million pounds to the joint venture and the YMCA, who will run the facility, plan to design a building covering a slightly larger footprint than the present Children’s House, and to add a second floor over part of the new building to accommodate other meeting rooms and staff rooms.

“Both the Trust and the YMCA are keen to see workshops on the site so that the local community can be trained and achieve qualifications they might not have otherwise achieved through the normal education process” said Lynda.

Although Bryan was keen to emphasise that the new Tovil Community Centre would welcome all sections and all ages in the community, the facilities on offer would be likely to appeal more to adults and those in their late teens. The school nearby, which is also being developed, already has plans to cater for the younger members of the community.

“We hope it won’t be long before we can submit a planning application and, who knows, in two years’ time we may be in a position to open two brand new centres.

“Also, out of the sale proceeds at Melrose Close, we have been able to provide funds for two new pitches to be created at Oldborough Manor School, as well as the refurbishment of the changing rooms there.

“These are exciting times for the YMCA in Maidstone and Blair Gulland has guided us through the legalities of all projects. His advice has been invaluable,” said Bryan