Dorking youth centre petition gets 150 signatures
ALMOST 150 people have signed a petition calling on Surrey County Council (SCC) to save a threatened youth centre.
Last week the Advertiser reported that teenagers were fighting to protect the new Malthouse centre in Dorking, which Sainsbury's wants to demolish to make way for a new store.
The supermarket giant has promised to provide an improved centre elsewhere in the town and transform Dorking into a "vibrant shopping destination".
But an online petition set up by the Save Our Youth Centre (SOYC) campaign group, urging SCC not to sell the former pub, had gathered 148 signatures as the Advertiser went to press
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Campaign leader Theo Robertson-Bonds said: "We believe that the demolition and re-provision of the Malthouse, at significant inconvenience to young people and the youth service staff involved, is not needed.
"Sainsbury's are greedily wishing to build a large, multimillion-pound store in our town, when they could develop something far more sensitively.
"We remain unconvinced by Sainsbury's assurances of like-for-like alternative provision."
A Sainsbury's spokesman said: "Mole Valley District Council has, through extensive consultation, decided to promote the rear of St Martin's Walk, including the former Malthouse pub (as a supermarket site).
"It is doing so in the wider interests of Dorking's residents and to ensure that the town centre becomes and remains a vibrant shopping destination for all."
Sainsbury's has not yet submitted a planning application, but the Dorking Town Area Action Plan states that any applicant must provide "a youth facility which is at least equivalent to that being planned in the former Malthouse pub in advance of any development".
The Malthouse is set to open in the next few weeks, and Garath Symonds, assistant director for young people at SCC, told the Advertiser he was "really pleased" with the centre.
He added: "If Sainsbury's come to us and say 'we can offer you a better deal for young people' we will listen to it, but they have not said anything yet."
Several members of the campaign group attend the Ashcombe School in Dorking.
Head teacher David Blow said: "I think the important thing is to make sure that we keep a quality youth centre in the town."