The Folkestone Youth Project, better known to its friends and users as The Shed, has been a feature of life in the harbour area of the town since it first opened its doors over ten years ago. The initial idea, which was brought forward by Go Folkestone, was to create a skateboard park in the harbour, and to bring back into use the offices of an old warehouse, which was adjacent to the park, as a youth centre. Both of these initiatives were supported by the Folkestone Harbour company who allowed The Shed project to develop on their land, rent free, and with their utility bills paid for as well. However, this offer was only open until the land was required as part of the redevelopment of the Folkestone seafront. It is great for the town, that this redevelopment scheme is underway, with work being carried out now to prepare the ground in anticipation of buildings works starting soon. It does mean though that The Shed needs to find a new home. The skatepark will close on 2nd April, and the temporary buildings that have housed the youth work next to it for the last two years, will be removed by 22nd May.
It has been my privilege to serve as one of the trustees of The Shed since it opened in 2006. I have seen the excellent youth work that is provided by Ruth Tyler and her team for the hundreds of young people who use The Shed every month, some of whom are from some of the most deprived neighbourhoods of the town. The Shed is also used by the Kent Refugee Action Network (KRAN), a local charity that supports young people in the asylum system who are being accommodated in our area. KRAN provides vital support work and education to help these young people adjust to live in the UK. The Shed is a much used and needed community facility and we need to ensure that its good work continues.
The Shed has received financial support over the years from the Shepway, Kent and Folkestone Town councils, as well as from local charities like the Rotary clubs, Folkestone Lions and the Roland Cruickshanks Foundation. I am grateful for all the support they have offered. The immediate requirement for The Shed is to find a new location where it can continue its work. This could either be from an existing building, or from a piece of land that could accommodated The Shed’s mobile buildings, and has access to utilities, like water and electricity. We also require a site that has space where some of the skatepark ramps could be accommodated, and other outdoor activities delivered. The search is on now to find a home for The Shed, and ideally within the timetable set out for it to leave its current site. I have discussed this with Shepway Council and with Kent Police, and there is broad recognition of just how important the work of The Shed is to Folkestone. We will do all we can to support it into the future.