After over a decade in the planning, the final package of funding has been granted to build a dedicated centre for young people living in the Markets area.
The Department of Education, the main funder in the project, signed off £900,000 earlier this month for the new centre that is to be based on the ground of St Malachy’s primary School on Eliza Street.
Chairman of the school’s board of governors, the Very Reverend Michael McGinnity told the Community Telegraph: “It’s fantastic news, it’s been long time in coming — this new facility for young people has been on the table for 10 or 12 years and it’s great that we are finally at this stage where funding has been secured and we have got the go-ahead to build.
“The youth centre will provide a full range of facilities for young people from for ages ranging from five to 19. It’s a great boost for the area and I’m hoping it will get off the ground this time.
“We would be hopeful that building work will begin by the summer.”
The state-of-the-art facilities will include a multi-use hall and games room; meeting rooms; staff offices and canteen facilities. A new games area will also be provided at the centre.
The Department of Social Development will also be supporting the project financially and St Malachy’s Parish will be contributing £100,000 to the costs.
Officials from the Department of Education will be meeting with representatives from both DSD and the youth centre to discuss the next stage in the progression of the project.
Once the building is completed, St Malachy’s youth club, which currently uses the Markets Community Centre as its base, will relocate to the new centre.
South Belfast Sinn Fein MLA candidate Alex Maskey said: “For a number of years plans and discussions have been in place to build a new youth centre in the area but until now it has not been possible to secure all of the necessary funding to commence the building work on this exciting new facility.
“That the funding has been agreed for the development of a youth centre in the Markets is an extremely welcome development for the local community.”
Sinn Fein council candidate Deirdre Hargey said: “The Market community has suffered severe social disadvantage and this development will enable the parish, school and local community to provide much needed youth services for our young people”.