Screen Shot 2015-12-02 at 11.11.55Sunderland is set to be the first location in the North East to develop an OnSide Youth Zone, as the project receives significant financial backing from The Queen’s Trust, Virgin Money Foundation and Sir Peter Vardy totalling £2.35million.

Sir Peter Vardy is spearheading the development of the national youth charity’s proposals to deliver a state-of-the-art £6million facility for the city’s young people, and has received the endorsement and investment from The Queen’s Trust and Virgin Money Foundation to help make his dream of providing Sunderland’s young people with their own Youth Zone, a reality.

The Queen’s Trust is pledging an investment of £1million and Virgin Money Foundation is supporting to the tune of £850,000 for the development of the North East’s first Youth Zone in Sunderland.

Sir Peter Vardy who is championing the development of Youth Zones across the North East has also generously agreed to donate £500,000 towards the region’s first facility. He said:

“The development of an OnSide Youth Zone in the heart of city centre will be a huge investment boost for Sunderland. Being from the area, I know first-hand that this project will not only help to support the Council’s impressive regeneration plans to reinvigorate the city, but also, more importantly support the wellbeing, aspirations and life chances of our young people as they move into adulthood. My vision is that all young people in the North East have access to somewhere safe and inspiring to go in their leisure time and I am hopeful that we will not only be able to create a Youth Zone in Sunderland, but also develop one in Newcastle where negotiations with the City Council are continuing .”

The exciting plans will see a purpose-built Youth Zone at the proposed site adjacent to Sunderland College’s new flagship campus on the Holmeside Triangle,  open seven-days-a-week, with more than 20 activities on offer every session for young people aged 8-19, or up to 25 for those with a disability.

The aim of the Youth Zone is to raise aspirations, enhance prospects and improve the health and wellbeing of young people in Sunderland, by providing affordable access to a wide range of programmes, services and activities including sports, arts, music, employability and mentoring.

Nicola Brentnall, Director of The Queen’s Trust said: “We are delighted to help bring a Youth Zone to Sunderland.  Sunderland really believes in its young people and OnSide will add a great new offer to help them grow in confidence and develop new skills – all while having a great time with their friends.”

Edward Wakefield, Chairman of the Virgin Money Foundation, said: “We are delighted to see this fantastic project coming to fruition.  The Virgin Money Foundation is focused on helping people to make a sustainable, meaningful change for the better in the communities in which they live.  OnSide’s Youth Zones have a wonderful track record in raising the aspirations and enhancing the prospects of disaffected young people.  We are proud to be a major supporter in helping them bring those benefits to Sunderland through the establishment of a new Youth Zone. ”

Based on a successful, tried and tested model, OnSide has opened five centres since 2008 and is due to open in Wolverhampton and Wirral in 2016, with many more in the pipeline. Sunderland is leading the way for young people in the North-East.

Dr Mark Ward, Project Director at OnSide Youth Zones added: “We are incredibly excited to be able to announce our first Youth Zone project for the North East. The considerable support from The Queen’s Trust and Virgin Money Foundation, alongside the vision of Sunderland City Council and the long-lasting partnership with the local voluntary sector, private sector and individuals such as Sir Peter, will ensure the Youth Zone goes onto deliver for local young people for years to come.”

The move has been welcomed by the Leader of Sunderland City Council, Councillor Paul Watson. He said: “We’re delighted at the prospect of first OnSide Youth Zone in the North East being located in Sunderland.

“From what we’ve seen so far this promises to be a fantastic facility for young people which must complement our already great services in Sunderland. We’re looking forward to hearing more from OnSide over the coming weeks and months about their plans for engaging with the voluntary sector and with young people as they develop their plans further.

“The site next to Sunderland College’s new campus is right in the heart of the city centre and has excellent transport links, so it couldn’t be better placed in terms to being accessible for young people.

“It also fits in with our ambitions to regenerate the city centre, which are making good progress with the development of the college campus, the recent completion of St Mary’s Boulevard and Keel Square.”

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