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Sparkplug – a new youth facility in the neighbourhood

April 8, 2010

Construction work is well underway to re-house an outstanding youth project in the heart of Caledonian Ward. For the last 10 years Sparkplug has provided off-road motorcycle training and a range of positive activities for local young people.

In addition to accredited mechanic courses, Sparkplug offers a youth club, riding trips and competitive off-road rallying – all of which improve employability, develop social and emotional skills and reduce crime and antisocial behaviour.

The new building should be finished mid Summer 2010

Without Sparkplug, many of the youngsters involved could well have been lured into troublesome behaviour. Instead, all the kids have had a rewarding and positive experience which has helped them through school or college and into secure employment.

For the past decade, the project operated out of a single storey, semi-derelict park-keeper’s building. After many years of campaigning to raise the funds, Sparkplug’s plans for a new building are coming to fruition.

The new building has 2 storeys and will include a large workshop areas with storage space; a multipurpose teaching room; an office; changing, shower and toilet facilities; and a small kitchen. The building can serve as more than simply a motorcycle training project. The facilities mean that small groups of young people can undertake other supervised activities in the building.

Caledonian ward Councillors have spent the last 4 years carefully safeguarding (and topping-up) a cocktail of funding sources. These included £390,000 of “section 106” money from the William of York apartment development; about £50,000 also in S106 funds from Kings Cross railway station redevelopment; £100,000 from the Council’s own capital budget; and about £50,000 we halped to squeeze from a variety of other Council sources. The Council has also granted Sparkplug a rent-free lease to operate from the new building.

Many nearby residents – especially those living along Pembroke Street – have been concerned that Sparkplug might cause noise and nuisance. These residents and approximately 1,000 other people in the neighbourhood will shortly be asked their opinion about a management plan for the building. This contains strict limits on the opening hours and the types of activities that will be permitted.

The most important rule is Sparkplug’s bikes will not be allowed under any circumstances to be ridden on any surrounding streets. All their motorcycles are off-road bikes so taking them on the public highway would be illegal.

Sparkplug will be allowed to operate a youth club on Fridays until 9.30pm but, apart from this, they will only be open between 9am and 6pm all other days. On Sundays it will be closed entirely. The management plan imposes stricter hours on the starting or running of engines: this will not be permitted beyond 4pm (Mon-Thurs), 6pm on Thursday, 9pm on a Friday and midday on a Saturday. Several other important safeguards are also imposed:

  • All engines started up in the courtyard will be fitted with a legal silencer
  • Only electrical jet hoses shall be used to clean bikes and equipment
  • No amplified music is to be played in the courtyard at any time
  • The gates to the courtyard along Pembroke Street will be shut at all times to reduce the amount of noise escaping from the yard
  • All windows will be kept shut as much as possible
  • All hazardous waste must be disposed according to the procedures and guidance of Islington Council and the Government’s Environment Agency.

Sparkplug will also be allowed to use the building’s first floor for other community purposes, such as public meetings, teaching and training outside of the current hours of operation. But special permission will required from Islington Council.

Rupert Perry says “as local Councillors we are proud of Sparkplug and its achievements over the past decade. We have done everything possible to make sure the project thrives and the new building represents an important new milestone. Sparkplug’s success reflects the energy and enthusiasm of a group of staff, volunteer trustees, parents and neighbours who are determined to give kids in this area a great start in life through positive activities and gaining valuable skills.”

“The Sparkplug building is also a good example of the kind of dedicated youth and community centres that we believe are needed right throughout the Borough. We already have a number of possible locations for new facilities in our ward. We hope, after May 6th, to consult on plans to get new youth clubs and sports activities off the ground.”

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