Residents in Creggan have warned that their former community centre has become a hotbed of anti-social activity and and are now fearful it could be torched.
St Mary’s Community Centre on Fanad Drive has been empty for the past year and residents living beside it are afraid it may suffer the same fate as St Peter’s High School if it is not secured.
Youths have been gathering to drink on the grounds of the centre, smashing windows at the weekends and evenings, with fears the problem will escalate over the summer months.
A trampoline brought onto the site and used by the youths has since been dismantled.
A £2.3m funding package from the Department of Education was announced to develop a new youth centre across on the site last year as part of a wider youth provision investment, but residents said they have no idea of a time-frame, and that interim measures were needed urgently.
It is understood the site- opposite St Mary’s Church- was formerly run by the parish, who had to close it because the costs being incurred in keeping it open were draining resources. It was up until then a hive of activity with a knitting club, snooker, club, and a range of other clubs meeting there. The former concert venue in more recent times also housed a cafe and a take-away.
Local resident Seamus Breslin said that today however “it has been left to rot”.
“The next stage now they will be moving into it, there will be metal thieves and fires. We want something to be done before that happens.”
Speaking outside the gates of the former community centre, Mr Breslin added: “It is very open up here and it has just been left to rot.
“The grass is all overgrown at the back, the windows have no protection. When the young fellows are passing they throw a halfer at them.
“It’s only a matter of time before it is a ruin or set alight.
“It seems to have just been abandoned. It seems nobody wants to take any responsibility for this place, which used to be the heart of the community.
“The rest of the estate looks a million dollars and slap bang in the middle is this total eyesore.
“People around here are fed up with it. They know what is going to happen, they know it is inevitable. People are scared. We need it to be secured properly.”
Residents have also expressed concern about the lack of lighting along the laneway to the side of the adjacent youth centre site, which is still in use.
There are reports from those living in the area that young people are gathering there to drink and even going to the toilet in people’s gardens.
Meanwhile one resident is so scare she asks taxi drivers to escort her to her door.
One local woman said: “It’s not fair. People shouldn’t have to live like that. It’s pitch black out there at night. We have asked for lights but they will not give them to us. It is ridiculous what we have to put up with. Nobody else in this town would have put with it to be honest.”
Mr Breslin meanwhile has also taken it upon himself to lift rubbish dumped by others and disposes of it to the appropriate amenity centres.
The residents said that those gathering where teenagers and young adults. They also said there could be dozens of them at any one time.
There was no-one available at the Department for Education yesterday to speak on a time-table for when works would start.
The Journal also contacted the Derry Diocese but have had no response by the time of going to press.