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Saving a community sports centre (Community Asset?)

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This topic contains 6 replies, has 6 voices, and was last updated by Profile photo of Sarah Sarah 1 year, 4 months ago.

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  • #12055
    Profile photo of Jim
    Jim
    Participant

    In our community we have a council run sports centre which was originally built as part of the local secondary school and shares the school site. This sports centre is managed and run along with another local school sports centre and shares a management committee. It has been a community sports centre for over 30 years. The sports and leisure dept at the local council have for years wanted to rid themselves of this burden as they prefer centralization at the main council run sports centre and have tried a number of times in the past to close it but have always had to bow to pressure to keep it open.

    So the present problem is that the education dept now are looking to expand the school and have there eye set on converting the sports Centre to classrooms. There is room on the school site to add classrooms or part of the school is could be redeveloped however this would mean going through the planning system which they don’t want to do, taking the sports Centre is the easy route. Sports and leisure nor Health at the local council have refused to raise an objection and the head of the school governing body even told me that S&L had “offered” it to education. Because this has been fronted as “for the children” all local councillors seem to have rolled over and are refusing to represent the rest of the community especially the over 50s (or 60s, 70s and 80s) that use the facility. There have been some very democratically underhand things going on.

    Any idea whether this centre (or both) under threat could be saved. Would Sport England involvement bear any fruit as they are advocating schools sharing their facilities with the community. Any ideas or suggestions welcome. We would like the Local authority to continue running them as that is the best use of resources.

    Thanks

    #12056
    Profile photo of Stephen
    Stephen
    Participant

    Hi Jim,

    The first thing I would say is get it listed as an ‘asset of community value’. That will involve the local council but it would be very hard to refuse as it is clearly such an asset.

    I’m not sure if transferring it within the council constitutes a ‘sale’ as such but you may be able to hold up the process by having it listed. This should ensure a moratorium on the transfer and allow the community time to organise and possibly apply for an asset transfer to a community group to run. That’s the simplistic outline but it involves a lot of commitment from a group. And it sounds as though there is no political will to support you. (Worth pointing out to Cllrs that 50-80 year olds make up the majority of voters and May 2016 is not that far away?)

    I also wonder if converting the sports centre into classrooms would be free from the planning process. It is a change of use as far as I can see.

    At the end of the day council are looking to cut budgets and will want to pursue a centralisation option. It will be up to the community to come together and form a group willing to take on that responsibility.

    Sports England may be able to help by putting you in touch with similar projects for advice and they may support with funding?

    For advice on Listing Assets of Community Value and Asset Transfer I would talk to Locality http://locality.org.uk/our-work/assets/

    Good Luck

    Stephen

    #12057
    Profile photo of Chris
    Chris
    Participant

    **Jim**

    Hi Jim.

    Interesting post. I concur with all of Stephen’s helpful comments. I would simply factor parish councils into the mix. If there is one in the area covering the sports centre it may be interested in running it as an asset. However, you could speak to Newport Pagnell Town Council (Bucks.) if this is the case as it has recently taken on an £11 million sports centre as a complex asset transfer from its principal local authority – http://www.newport-pagnell.org.uk/Newport-Pagnell-Town-Council/Contact_Us__and__Staff__1453.aspx .

    This may not be relevant if there is not parish council in the same area but l;ong term you could of course consider setting one up.

    Hope this helps a bit,

    Chris (NALC)

    #12060
    Profile photo of Jeff
    Jeff
    Participant

    Apologies for sounding negative but don’t get too excited about getting it registered as an Asset of Community Value. Firstly, all that means is that the community has the opportunity to step in and buy it before its sold….which is fine if you have funds and the ability to run a sports centre…. but also I doubt this counts as a “sale” as its staying in local authority ownership. ACV status didn’t stop our local school-based swimming pool closing due to budget cuts when the new school was built this year. In truth ACVs are a bit toothless. That said, it may help raise the profile of the debate a bit, which may assist in getting local politicians on your side, if they are not already too far down the path of cost cutting in current times of public sector spending budget cuts.

    #12063
    Profile photo of Mick Owen
    Mick Owen
    Participant

    Hi Jim
    Our local sports centre tried to turn a squash court into a cross-training room. They had scaffolding erected and materials on site before the squash club explained to the lead councillor for leisure that this would mean losing a thriving kids club and would probably kill the adult squash club in time. The councillor paused the work and reviewed the “evidence” which included a user survey. The survey was given to 16 of the centre’s 1300 members, none of whom were squash players. In short, it was an attempted carve-up. The court is still there; but only because the club agitated and advocated till they got the right person to hear the truth.

    I think you need to ensure your voice is heard. Do ALL the councillors know what is at stake when they take the centre out of use. You need to include arguments about the value of physical activity AND the value of social contact to the groups which use the centre. You need to contact ALL councillors with an “interest” i.e. district and county councillors responsible for public health and for leisure, ward councillors and the leaders of all political groupings.

    You could try speaking to your County Sports Partnership who might have a view and some influence but I wouldn’t hold my breath and your local Age UK franchise should be able to help you with statistics on the use of physical activity to counter loneliness and isolation.

    Best of luck.
    Mick

    #12064
    Profile photo of Jim
    Jim
    Participant

    All,

    Thanks for the advice.

    Don’t think local councillors, parish or borough, are keen to do anything as the whole thing seems to be a stitch up from beginning to end. One parish and borough councillor is a member of the sports Centre management committee but is also a governor at the school, a distinct conflict of interest. Another borough councillor who is the, snappily titled, “Older People’s Champion” is also a governor of the school.

    Will keep trying.

    #12083
    Profile photo of Sarah
    Sarah
    Participant

    Hi Jim,

    Something similar happened where I live. I live in a community north west of Sheffield which is often isolated by snow, poor public transport etc. Our local sports centre which was run by the council was going to be closed down. The council wanted to sell the land that the sports centre stood on. The local UKip councillors were the driving force that ‘saved’ the centre. It does pain me to say this because I am not a supporter of UKip, I really don’t like them it was their own political interests that motivated them and subsequently got them in power locally. However they discovered the land was given to the people of Stocksbridge by an Earl that once owned the land. This proved the council’s had no legal right to sell the land to developers. You could try looking for a loop hole like this because you lack support from the local councillors.I think the key is to find a core group of people that are passionate about saving your sports centre. This is what saved ours.

    Here’s a link to our sport centre:http://www.stocksbridgeclc.co.uk

    This story may or may not be useful to you but I thought I’d share incase it gave you ideas.

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