Council set to back Mr Smith's Youth Zone plan


THE future of Warrington’s iconic Mr Smith’s nightclub appears to have been secured following fears a split in the controlling Labour group on the council would jeopardise the building being transformed into a Youth Zone – and a new home for Warrington Youth Club.
The future of the building had been left “hanging in the balance” after some Labour members challenged investing the £3 million required to help save the building.
But now following a number of meetings and lobbying within the Labour group it seems the funding will be secured – subject to a detailed business case and a satisfactory risk assessment.
A council spokesperson said: “Following discussions at meetings last week, it has been agreed in principle that £3 million refurbishment costs should be made available through the capital programme to support the development of a youth zone in Warrington.
“This will be subject to a detailed business case and risk assessment being prepared; and a report to Executive Board for agreement.”
The proposals involves the building’s owners, the Pervaiz Naviede Family Trust, selling the building for £1.2 million to the Newton-le-Willows based Vimto drinks company who will donate the building back to the community on a 125 year lease deal, involving a peppercorn rent.
It will provide a new home for the Youth Club, which will move from its existing base at the Peace Centre.
Rudi Falla, spokesman for the Pervaiz Naviede Family Trust, said: “We’re pleased that Warrington Borough Council has provisionally agreed the £3m funding package needed to create new facilities for Warrington Youth Club. We’re now a step closer to seeing the former Mr Smith’s building transformed into a well-used community facility.”
The council has been approached by Onside Youth Zones to work in partnership with the youth club and members of the local business community to create a youth zone within the former nightclub.
Onside Youth Zones are modeled on the successful Bolton Lads and Girls Club, with five Youth Zones already thriving in the North West.
The other Youth Zones in Blackburn, Carlisle, Manchester, Oldham and Wigan, have each gone on to generate £500k of private sector funding each year since opening. Warrington is part of a plan to create 20 Youth Zones nationally by 2020.
It is anticipated that the Warrington Youth Zone would attract 3,000 members in the first year, create additional employment opportunities at the youth club in addition to high quality and developmental volunteering opportunities for community members with associated training and support. Trustees would be drawn from the local local business community, with a strong representation from the council.
In July last year the Salford Quays based LPC Living Ltd gave notice of demolition to Warrington Borough Council.
As the building was not listed there were no powers to stop the demolition going ahead, although campainers launched a facebook group in a bid to save the building which shot to fame in the 1980s with the “Hitman and her” show featuring Pete Waterman and and Michaela Strachan.
Mr Smith’s was formerly the Ritz and then the ABC cinema before it shot to fame in the 1980s, attracting large numbers of revellers each week.
More recently, it had short openings as Synergy and Halo nightclubs in the late 2000s but never attracted the same numbers to make it a viable business.
Warrington council failed in an attempt to buy the building in 2011 when it wanted to include the site in its plans to improve the waterfront area next to the Mersey.
They council was prepared to pay around £500,000 for the building at the time which eventually went for in the region of £1 million.
The building originally opened in August 1937 as a 1,928 seat cinema and the first film starred Robert Armstrong “Without Orders” and Chester Morris “I promise to pay.”


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Experienced journalist for more than 40 years. Managing Director of magazine publishing group with three in-house titles and on-line daily newspaper for Warrington. Experienced writer, photographer, PR consultant and media expert having written for local, regional and national newspapers. Specialties: PR, media, social networking, photographer, networking, advertising, sales, media crisis management. Director Warrington Chamber of Commerce Patron Tim Parry Johnathan Ball Foundation for Peace. Trustee Warrington Disability Partnership. Former Chairman of Warrington Town FC.

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