Peppercorn rate agreed for Medical Tuition Service at Parkfield

MTS is based at Parkfield Youth Centre on Colin Road, Paignton

MTS is based at Parkfield Youth Centre on Colin Road, Paignton - Credit: Torbay Council

Torbay Council has agreed to a long-term lease of a youth centre to a school that helps pupils with illness or long-term health conditions.

Medical Tuition Service (MTS), a non-profit organisation commissioned by Torbay children’s services to teach pupils whose medical needs exclude them from mainstream education, moved from Totnes Road, Paignton, in 2018 after its building, Halswell House, was deemed not fit for purpose and could not be registered with Ofsted.

It opened at Parkfield Youth Centre on Colin Road in the town last year.

Now Torbay Council has unanimously voted to grant the service use of the centre for a nominal rent for the next 25 years.

Parkfield Youth Centre is part of the MyPlace network, a collection of more than 60 such centres that opened between 2009 and 2013 with financial help from the Government to help children from disadvantaged backgrounds.

Alongside the MTS, the centre in Parkfield hosts group work sessions for young people and has a skate park, BMX track and climbing wall.

At a full council meeting, Councillor Cordelia Law, Cabinet member for children’s services, said: “A lease at commercial rate would be a financial burden to the Medical Tuition Service, which is non-profit making and all its resources are focused on the delivery of service to vulnerable young people.

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“Agreeing to a peppercorn rent ensures that the Medical Tuition Service meets its targets and reinvests in services to meet the needs of vulnerable pupils attending.

“Limiting the rent cost reduces the pressure on the council’s resources for children with additional educational needs.”

Councillor Nick Bye, scrutiny lead for children’s services, said: “It seems like a very pragmatic solution.

"MyPlace [Parkfield] is a fantastic facility but the costs and perhaps the scale of it has been perhaps overambitious.

"Therefore, making some use on that site beyond youth services does seem eminently sensible and what better cause can there be than to provide a decent home for the Medical Tuition Service.”

The council spent £600,000 to make Parkfield Youth Centre suitable for MTS, with the understanding that the lease would be granted by the council and the service would stay there long term.

Parkfield Youth Centre is still available for the community.

The council says the lease will enable it to change its use in future if it wants.