A PLEA has been issued to the people of Northallerton to rally round and find a new base for a youth group.

The mayor, Coun Jack Dobson, says he is disappointed an earlier appeal for help has been snubbed.

This week he vowed he would not abandon young people forced out of their town hall venue by flood damage. He said the management committee of Northallerton Youth Centre was doing all it could to remedy the situation.

"The youth centre desperately needs a new home," he said. "I am very disappointed no-one has come forward in response to a plea for premises, permanent or temporary."

The NYC used to meet in the town hall basement, hit by floods in November 2000 and again this summer. The last of these caused "heave" which is being investigated by structural experts. The area cannot be used until the problem is sorted out.

Since then, the committee has had to put the work of youth workers largely on hold. In the meantime, youngsters are being asked just what they would like to happen.

An outreach programme is being operated in which youth workers go out and meet young people on the streets. "But this is not ideal," said the mayor.

The committee has now co-opted Dr Judith Aird, North Yorkshire County Council's life skills co-ordinator for youth, based at Northallerton College. She is looking into acquiring vans to tour the villages to meet young people.

The committee is trying to raise money for this idea, but just one van equipped with video facilities and such would cost about £15,000.

Before all the problems, membership of NYC hit a high of about 80, but the lapse in activities has seen a fall in numbers.

"We want to build it up again and the time is ticking by," said Coun Dobson.

He pledged the town council would continue to support the NYC.

"Hopefully we will be able to move back into the basement but we need somewhere else now," he said. "We all have a duty to help the town's youth and there is no way we will abandon them."

The Rev John Parker, minister at Northallerton's United Reformed Church and chairman of the management committee, said: "We have lost equipment in the basement three times now due to floods.

"We can't put any more cash into it as things are. But money which had already been raised is being used for outreach and vehicles."

He said there were youth workers "waiting in the wings" because there was nowhere to meet. Six paid workers were ready to go out to the young people.

"It is heartbreaking. They are just sitting on their hands," said Mr Parker.

He said any decent-sized hall would do, It should take up to 40 young people for life skill development and social activities.

"This helps them become responsible citizens and it gets them off the streets," he said. "We need the support of the community to get these young people back to their activities. They keep asking us when the youth centre is going to open up again."

Any payment for a venue would be limited, as the basement comes at a peppercorn rent from the town council.

Mr Parker said the committee had been well on the way to setting up a cyber-caf which the young people had requested. "Then we were clobbered by the floods and we had to abandon that project," he said.

Coun Dobson said: "The young people are the future of the town and we are trying to give them that future. But we need the help of the people to do it."

Anyone who can help should contact the mayor at the town hall, 01609 776718