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Community centre faces eviction bill

North Mymms Youth and Community Centre faces a bill of 1,500 following the visit of travellers to its land. The bill has been submitted by Welwyn Hatfield Council for the eviction costs and for clearing the site.

Report by Youth Club team member

In May 2000, the car park adjoining the North Mymms Youth and Community Centre became the pitch for two traveller caravans.

Old tyres piled behind the Youth Club - youth1.jpg (11377 bytes)
Old tyres piled behind the Youth Club

In the three weeks that followed, more than 200 car tyres, earth, builder's rubble, wooden fencing, scrap metal and other rubbish built up.

Throughout, including a period where the travellers moved a few yards away to land next to St Thomas More Catholic church, many activities at the centre, including the daily children's nursery, the senior citizen's club, tai chi and ju jitsu classes plus the weekly junior youth group, Club 2000 had to be either cancelled or were disrupted.

A wedding reception booked at the centre was also cancelled. Various items had been spread across the car park making it unusable for visitors.

The clothing banks behind the North Mymms Community Centre - youth2.jpg (11274 bytes)
The clothing banks behind the North Mymms Community Centre

The Parish Council, which assists the centre by cutting the grass on the nearby football pitch, was unable to gain access due to piles of earth and building rubble dumped across the access path. This meant that the football pitch, used by local youngsters, was unable to be used.

The centre is a charitable provision for the whole community of Brookmans Park and Welham Green. It is run entirely voluntarily and currently receives no financial assistance from local or national government.

The management committee did not have the resources or the expertise to instigate the legal action for an eviction and it was therefore necessary to ask Welwyn Hatfield Council to take action

Piles of rubble and garden fences at rear of youth club - youth3.jpg (7709 bytes)
Piles of rubble and garden fences at rear of youth club

This was completed and bailiffs served an eviction order with a stipulation ruling against a return within three months.

Local company Liebherr was asked to assist in clearing the site and used their own heavy lifting gear to remove much of the earth and waste off the car park area. For this service, they did not charge the centre.

The tyres had to be individually moved and stacked ready for collection by a specialist, (this cost nearly 200).

Much of the wood was then burnt. The whole area had to be hosed down and scrubbed. All this was done by members of the voluntary management committee, many of whom are retired. The work took several days.

Last week, Welwyn Hatfield Council finally sent their invoice for the legal, court and bailiff costs to the Centre, a total of 1,500.

As a local charity, it is ill equipped to pay such sums.

The jumble sale this past weekend only raised 920.00 which is already earmarked for routine maintenance and running costs of the centre.

Sadly, the centre by its very nature, has to have open access, not least for the nearby recycling facilities and there is very little the centre can do to prevent a repetition.

One member of the centre's management committee is seeking urgent clarification from constituency MP, Melanie Johnson regarding the situation, as whilst the travelling community do need rights, the rights of residents have been clearly violated and do not appear to have any restitution against those responsible.

The financial reserves the centre has to pay for the upkeep will have to be held to pay the bill.

The alternative is for the centre's management committee to declare the centre bankrupt and close it, removing any chance of the much needed Youth Club re-opening for teenagers.

Closure of the centre would almost certainly result in the demolition of the building.

The community raised the money for the centre to be built in 1974 and have maintained it ever since, having been used by tens of thousands of people over the years.

European legislation is seeking to improve the rights of travellers. (European Convention on Human Rights came into force October 2000 and the current maximum penalty under sections 77 & 79 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 for failing to comply with an eviction order is 1000.00).

The Youth Club can be contacted via the web on youth

January 8, 2001

Recent News
Youth club hopes dashed - August 27, 2000
Teenage youth club to re-open - May 23, 2000
Waiting list for relaunched club - Apr 22, 2000
Junior youth club set to reopen - Feb 19, 2000
Volunteers save youth club - Oct 29, 2000
Youth Club to close - April 23, 1999

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