IF you’ve not been to the Blackburn Youth Zone on Jubilee Street, fix a visit. It doesn’t matter how old you are, or whether you have children or grandchildren yourself, it’s time well spent.

Seeing is believing. One year on, the Zone has more than fulfilled what was expected of it. It has confounded, too, those sceptics who argued that the money would have been better spent on local, community-centre youth clubs across the borough, rather than this spanking new big club in the centre of town.

From the time that I went over to see the Bolton Lads’ and Girls’ Club – the model for the Zone – some years ago, and I then witnessed the enthusiasm of the young people directly involved in the planning of the building, I’ve always had a hunch that the Zone would work.

Not just because of the professionalism of those involved, the leadership of the local business community under Andrew Graham (boss of Graham and Brown, the wallpaper manufacturers) who’ve backed it so generously – but above all because of the ethos which pervades everything the Zone does.

At the heart of that ethos is the value which is placed on today’s young people. They have it much tougher than my generation, but overwhelmingly they are more law-abiding and more committed to their work, and to their community, than youngsters were ten or twenty years ago.

The Zone provides a safe environment for youngsters to enjoy themselves. That’s great in itself. But it also helps to increase self-confidence, social skills, and provide practical advice as well.

That in turn could lead to an increase in the numbers going on into high quality further education or training – essential for those individuals’ future prosperity.

But there’s an additional benefit from the Zone – it’s starting to cut across that invisible but powerful divide between the white, and the Asian communities. 20% of the Zone’s members are from Asian families – that’s less than the average for the borough, but given some of the concerns of Asian parents, it’s a very good start.