WHEN the youth centre closed in Tidworth, there was a gap in the opportunities available for young people in the town.

So last year Steph Ball, who runs Caterpillas Under 5s, was inspired to launch a Tidworth Teen Cafe for 13 to 17-year-olds.

She approached the town’s mayor, Mark Connolly, to begin looking at a space for teenagers to go in the evenings.

On Wednesday that dream became a reality when the facility was officially opened at The Clarendon Club by Mr Connolly.

Steph, who has been working with under 18-year-olds for 20 years, said: “It is really great and I’m relieved that we finally got there. It is just something positive that can have a positive impact on the community.”

The cafe will be open 6pm to 9pm on Wednesdays and Thursdays in the club’s function room, which has been revamped especially.

The Clarendon Club licensee Paul Moorhouse spent time transforming the room, with new carpets, a lick of paint, a new pool table and internet connection.

Speaking of why he offered the space, Paul said: “There is nowhere for the teenagers to go to get them off the streets rather than hanging around on park benches or in bus stops whilst we have a facility that can be used. It is a great opportunity for local teenagers.”

Although there are a number of organisations in the town offering activities for youngsters, the idea behind the teenage cafe is to give young people a space of their own.

Mr Connolly said: “The youth centres closed in Wiltshire and since then there has been nowhere locally for young people to chill out in an informal way.”

Steph added: “We are not running it as a youth club, kids can come and hang out without being hampered. It is a place for them to come and hang.”

And in the months leading up to the opening, Steph put the message out there and spoke to teenagers around the town, with great success as groups were waiting for the doors to open.

She has also recruited 10 volunteers to help with providing drinks and organising the cafe.

Tidworth Town Council has granted the cafe £1,000 to pay for the first six months of rent, and Steph is likely to apply for grants from Wiltshire Council’s Tidworth Area Board in the coming months.