Campaign hots up to save Barcode

THE campaign to keep the doors of Barcode open has been gathering pace this week. Launched by Councillor Mike Bell, the Back Barcode petition has now

THE campaign to keep the doors of Barcode open has been gathering pace this week.Launched by Councillor Mike Bell, the Back Barcode petition has now received over 100 positive statements posted on its website, or by text.The petition, which reads: 'We the undersigned support the campaign to keep Barcode open and it is great value at just £2 per year', can be signed at or at the youth cafe in South Parade. People can also text their name and a message of support by sending the word BARCODE to 07766 404142.Cllr Bell said: "The response so far has been overwhelmingly supportive of the youth cafe, not just by young people, but by parents, people from outside Weston and even those without children who can see the value of having Barcode in our town."I hope this will help wake up the councillors who did not realise the positive impact that Barcode has had on youngsters and make them realise its value."We need to avoid the potentially disastrous decision of closing it and instead move forward and build on the success it has achieved so far."Whatever happens we have to keep it open."Messages of support received on the campaign website include:* "Barcode is the only place that the children of Weston can go. I thought people were in favour of keeping teens off the streets - and now there's a threat that the one place that solves this problem in Weston will be closed? It just doesn't make sense." * "As a parent of a 15-year-old teenager who uses Barcode I think it is a brilliant venue for young people to meet in a safe, alcohol-free venue in the centre of town. It is accessible to all because it is in the centre of town and if it were to be split up across Weston it would lose its appeal. The only reason Weston Town Council want to either close it or move it is financial. It is good value at £2 per week." * "It is ridiculous to think of moving or closing it, for the sake of less than 4p per week." * "£2? I would gladly pay more to keep Barcode open and we don't even have any kids!" * "Good value for money. At last something positive has been done for the town's youth." * "Barcode should be saved regardless of the cost. Why is it when something is positive and works well, it has to be stopped?" * "If Barcode closes it is yet another example of Weston's backward attitude to growth and development." * "Barcode has been really good. Have they thought what would happen if they closed it? Where would the kids that hang out there go? On the streets causing trouble in the Italian Gardens? Is that what they want?" * "I am in my late 70s now and only wish we had had somewhere to go like Barcode when I was younger as there is not a lot for youngsters to do or go in Weston. Good luck to you." * "When I played there with The Sketch the only fault I could pick out was that I wasn't under 18 but I wished I was under 18 so I could visit it more often. It's a great idea, well executed and has a pleasant atmosphere, you cannot ask for more." * "I live in Winscombe, but I think Barcode is a great asset and deserves support from all of us in North Somerset." * "I think Barcode is the best thing to happen for Weston's youth in a long time."* "Weston should be proud of Barcode in both its innovation and success in attracting a diverse group of young people to a no alcohol venue in the face of the pressures of under age drinking. It has played a significant preventive role to date in the personal and social development of a number of young people and the town council should continue to invest in its long term future."* "We should be celebrating its success, not considering closing it." * "Barcode is a brilliant initiative to do something positive for our youth. It is a far better use of funds than most of the things on which the council chooses to spend our money. I think those who oppose it or seek to play politics with it should be ashamed of themselves."A NATIONAL FLAGSHIP... BARCODE is regarded as a flagship enterprise. It has attracted the interest of many organisations, including the Home Office, which intend to visit the youth cafe to learn from the experiences on how to go about starting similar ventures.A visit arranged via The Prince's Trust will see 50 young people interested in starting up their own youth cafes call into the South Parade building. Other organisations which have or plan to visit include Wolverhampton City Council, Yate Town Council, Bicester Town Council, East Grinsted Town Council, the Council Beacon Status Accreditation Panel, DEFRA, the University of Gloucestershire, Stoke Gifford Parish Council, Bleadon Parish Council and TV broadcaster Five.BUSINESSES HELP OUT... BARCODE has attracted over 20,000 young people through its doors and has the support of many businesses and sponsors who have provided a variety of services to the youth cafe, including the donation of money and furnishings. Up to March 2007 they have contributed £58,113. Contributions have come from:Hayers Newsagents, AGM, the Greek Orthodox community, North Somerset Council Youth Service, North Somerset Council, Meadow Property Services, Weston Youth Council, Weston Hoteliers Association, the King Alfred Chapter, Athelston Lodge, CK Destination, Weston & Somerset Mercury, SRB6 Training, National Lottery Awards For All, CSDAT, Towens, Weston Rotary Club, Quartet, K & C Fire Protection Services, Britvic, Woolworths, Ross Stationers, Teenycost, Star FM Radio, Ashbury Blinds, Weston College, Gilda Cushions, The Royal Hotel and Finesse Blinds.YOUTH CAFE - SECRET TALKS HELD AT GROVE HOUSEWESTON town councillors met behind closed doors to discuss the future of Barcode at an emergency meeting last Tuesday. They debated how to increase income at the youth cafe and whether to buy the South Parade building or move to a different venue. Another option put forward is to ask the landlords for a break clause in the lease, so the council can put off deciding the fate of Barcode until March next year. The Mercury understands a meeting with the landlords has since been held to negotiate this clause.Councillor John Ley-Morgan said: "I think indications are that the landlord will agree to extend the break clause for one year and I would be in favour of this. It will give the youth cafe some breathing space, but we need to get its finances on a sound footing. Barcode appears to have been given an open purse which it can dip into continually."A huge number of young people who go into the youth cafe do not spend any money and we need to increase income."The police talk about what a positive effect Barcode has on youngsters, but if that is the case then surely the £200 they have donated so far does not reflect the benefits they have received."Speaking after the meeting, Cllr Mike Bell said putting off signing a long term contract was just a 'stay of execution'. He said: "On the whole it was a positive meeting, and although there are a few people with some funny ideas, hopefully we can keep Barcode open while we find more ways of generating income."Deferring the break clause in the lease for a year is a possibility, if the owner is prepared to do so. The downside to that solution is that it means the uncertainty surrounding Barcode's future will also roll on for another year."Some councillors are still not happy about the costs of the youth cafe, which I think is ridiculous."A formal decision on the future of Barcode will be taken at a full Weston Town Council meeting on March 13.Cllr Ley-Morgan was invited to take part in a 'head to head' debate with Cllr Mike Bell on Star FM radio this week over Barcode, but refused. When asked why he said: "I saw no point in discussing Barcode in its present form. We should be looking to the future. I did not feel the debate was appropriate."COLLEGE AND POLICE PLAN FOR BARCODE'S FUTUREPOLICE officers plan to hold beat surgeries at Barcode because it is the 'perfect' place to reach youngsters.Weston College and the Brandon Trust also want to use Barcode as a common room and for development workshops respectively. This would mean the youth cafe would be used every weekday, increasing the number of people going through its doors and income.Town centre community sergeant Pete Land has approached Barcode staff about using a room in the youth cafe where young people can talk with police in confidence about any issues that concern them, including bullying, crime and violence.Sgt Land said: "Holding a beat surgery at Barcode will be a way of reaching the young people of the community, making the police more accessible and giving a better understanding of us, crime and the law."It will provide a place where they can talk to us about anything they are concerned about and ask questions without the fear of being lectured to. The position and nature of Barcode is perfect for the surgery, because there is such a cross range of young people from all kinds of backgrounds and areas attending it. A lot of people have shown a lot of commitment to Barcode and to consider closing it before it has reached its full potential would be a tragedy."Weston College Student Union has voted to use Barcode as its common room. Student services coordinator Fiona Walters said: "Although the final decision has not been made, it seems like a viable proposition. At present we have not got a common room we can use and Barcode seems the logical answer."It would provide a good, nearby place. We just need to see if Barcode can accommodate the hours we would require, but I do not think it will be a problem."Brandon Trust, an organisation that exists to improve the lifestyles, opportunities and independence for people with learning disabilities, is also proposing to use the youth cafe as a place to help their most able-bodied students develop their skills.The Trust also wants to use Barcode on Monday evenings for young people up to the age of 25 with special needs. The first night of Brandon@Barcode will take place on February 19.

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