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YHA is ready to forge ahead with an £18 million investment programme to revitalise its network of Youth Hostels to serve future generations of young people.
Following a 12 month review, the charity’s Board of Trustees agreed a radical overhaul of the YHA network in England and Wales at the weekend.
Money will now be spent on improving successful hostels, while creating and relocating facilities in top rural and urban target locations, where demand for accommodation among young people is high.
YHA Chairman Chris Boulton said: “This scheme of investment forms the cornerstone of a new 10-year strategy for YHA, which sees us refocus our efforts on young people in line with our charitable aims.
“We want to provide low-cost accommodation so that young people can discover England and Wales and we can only do this by providing great hostels in great locations.”
YHA Chief Executive Roger Clarke added: “We intend to run a network of successful and popular hostels in places where young people want to be and which enable us to deliver our charitable objectives.
“We are targeting families with children, schools and youth organisations, and young people travelling independently for the first time.
“Changing tastes and markets have left us with too many under-used properties in less popular locations. We expect to use sale proceeds from some of these properties to raise funds for YHA’s future development plans.”
Funding for the investment programme will be raised by the disposal of 32 of the 200-plus YHA hostels over the next three years. (A full list of properties to be closed is below.)
As well as partly funding a substantial programme of planned investment for the next five to 10 years, income raised from property sales will also slash YHA’s long-term borrowings and reduce interest payments.
Around 70 jobs are expected to be lost as a result of the cuts and YHA will do all it can to support those affected.
“This decision will impact on us all and we are aware that it will be a particularly difficult time for those directly involved with hostel closures,” added Mr Clarke.
“We will be providing a programme of support to individuals affected and will work with both the National Association of Youth Hostel Staff and Amicus to ensure the process runs as smoothly as possible.”
YHA has already taken steps towards creating its new network with money invested this year at existing popular locations such as Keswick in Cumbria and Boscastle and Penzance in Cornwall.
A major relocation scheme has begun at Whitby, where accommodation is being relocated to an historic building next to the Abbey in the North Yorkshire town and YHA also wants to invest in many other existing locations.
Future projects will see sights set on providing bigger and better facilities in the New Forest replacing in the longer term the successful operation at Burley.
While in Cambridge, Cardiff, Brighton, Dover and Newcastle, YHA is actively seeking better sites to replace current locations.
A similar relocation carried out in Oxford in December 2001 has since resulted in a dramatic rise in visitors to the hostel, exceeding all projected guest targets.
YHA is also keen to work with partners to open new properties like the recently announced accommodation at Aberglaslyn in Snowdonia - run in partnership with Leicestershire County Council.
The network has also been expanded to include YHA accommodation at the YMCA’s Lakeside complex on Windermere.
Hostels for closure are as follows – by Government region:
North East: Acomb, Bellingham, Greenhead and Wooler, in Northumberland;
North West: Alston and Kirkby Stephen in Cumbria, Earby in Lancashire.
Yorkshire: Keld and Stainforth, in North Yorkshire, and Langsett, near Sheffield.
East Midlands: Bakewell and Matlock, in Derbyshire.
West Midlands: Meerbrook, in Staffordshire.
Wales: Capel-y-Ffin, in Monmouthshire; Dolgoch and Tyncornel, in Ceredigion; Llangollen, in Denbighshire and Trefin, in Pembrokeshire.
East of England: Castle Hedingham, in Essex.
South East: Blackboys, Brighton and Hastings in Sussex; Sandown on the Isle of Wight and Dover, in Kent and Ivinghoe in Buckinghamshire.
South West: Steps Bridge, Lynton, Dartington and Elmscott, in Devon; Quantock, in Somerset.
- In the cases of seven of these hostels – namely Bakewell, Brighton, Hastings, Dover, Lynton, Matlock, and Sandown - better alternative sites are being sought in the same area.
- Most locations selected for closure have recorded poor usage figures or require substantial investment, or both, in some cases.
- In Liverpool and London (Rotherhithe) YHA is reviewing its options with a long-term view of moving to better located, and more cost effective sites.
- Hostels will remain open until at least 31 October 2006. Closure dates will be announced later this year.