Don’t run before you can walk...

First published in Jack Straw column Lancashire Telegraph: Photograph of the Author by , MP for Blackburn

Remember the chaos at Heathrow in 2008 when the brand new Terminal 5 descended into chaos?

The images which went round the world were not of Her Majesty The Queen at its official opening.

Instead, they were of what happened as it became “operational”. Cancelled flights, disgruntled passengers, lost baggage, staff driven demented.

It took many months for the reputations of BAA, the airport operator, and of British Airways to recover.

There’s another Royal opening of an entirely new building this coming Monday, in Blackburn.

That’s when Prince Edward, as Trustee of the Duke of Edinburgh Awards, will formally launch the Blackburn Youth Zone, in Jubilee Street.

The Youth Zone is not an airline terminal, of course. But there’s a lesson from Terminal 5 saga: follow that old adage – “don’t run before you can walk”.

The organisers of the new Zone know this. This is going to be a “soft opening”, built up over many weeks. Visits by schools will take place from the end of this month and into March.

After that, young people from schools and youth organisations can visit experience the wide range of activities on offer – the full sized sports hall, the roof top “kickpitch”, arts and music workshops; the media studio; and the “chilling out” social areas. There’ll be guided tours.

Parents will be able to check the place out, as a safe environment as well as one which is lots of fun. (see www.blackburnyz.org for details).

The Zone could not have happened without the incredible commitment of people like Andrew Graham, who has a busy day job running Britain’s biggest wallpaper manufacturer, and many other business leaders who’ve given time and money; the Blackburn with Darwen Council, on a bi-partisan basis; and the Government which in 2007 put up the £5 million towards construction costs.

I think it’s one of the most important new facilities in East Lancashire we’ve seen for decades – all the more reasons why the organisers are wisely taking their time before it’s fully running.

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