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STAFFORDSHIRE: Sports centre improvements “quietly dropped” from council leisure strategy say school governors

STAFFORDSHIRE: Sports centre improvements “quietly dropped” from council leisure strategy say school governors

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A Stone school has said funding for a new football pitch has been cut and plans to convert an old swimming pool into a sports hall have been “quietly dropped” from Stafford Borough Council’s leisure strategy.

A masterplan to revamp Stone’s Westbridge Park was revealed this month and a public consultation on the plans remains open on Stafford Borough Council’s website until Monday, October 25. The authority is investing £1.5m in creating a ‘destination park’ and the project follows on from the construction and opening of the town’s new leisure centre in 2019.

Stafford Borough Council’s cabinet was given an update on how the authority’s Stone Leisure Strategy is progressing at its October meeting.

But while permission to spend on the Westbridge Park project was granted by cabinet members this month, there are concerns that improvements to other town leisure facilities at Alleyne’s Sports Centre will not receive cash previously expected.

Susan Crookshank, chair of governors at Alleyne’s Academy, said: “The council’s 2016 Leisure Strategy included £200,000 for a new 3G astro pitch at the Alleyne’s site. Two years ago, the council’s own 2019 playing pitch strategy stated the poor quality of the pitch at Alleyne’s.

“Now, to justify the cut to funding, the council states that the pitch ‘is in good condition’, a misreading of a recent report which acknowledges that Alleyne’s has managed to maintain the pitch ‘in good condition for its age.’ The Football Association will not even license the current pitch for match use.

“The council’s 2019 strategy recognises that the borough needs two more 3G football pitches. Why, then, remove the funding for Stone’s community pitch – a pitch which not only serves the schoolchildren of this town but is the home of Stone’s Old Alleynians?

“The 2016 Leisure Strategy also included £430,000 towards the £1m cost of decommissioning the old swimming pool and creating a sports hall. Now, again without consultation, ‘conversion to a sports hall’ has been quietly dropped from the strategy.

“£212,080 had been legally ring-fenced specifically for sports. This money cannot now be diverted away from sport provision for the people of Stone to a ‘destination park’. The council has already pumped additional funding into Westbridge Park when costs increased beyond their projected budget.

“Alleyne’s has received no notice or advance warning from the council about these new plans to cut funding. The school remains fully committed to developing the sports facilities and continuing our long tradition of shared community use.

“We hope to build on our partnership with Old Alleynians and work with Stone’s many other local groups to properly reopen the site to the community. But the promised council funding and support is needed.”

The Oulton Road sports centre has been run for 50 years through a joint agreement between the school and the council.

Councillor Carolyn Trowbridge, cabinet member for leisure, said: “We are committed to supporting and developing leisure and sporting opportunities in Stone as the £1.5m investment in Westbridge Park demonstrates. That investment is part of a £2.4m fund for the town and includes the contribution of £430,000 to Alleyne’s Academy.

“We have contacted the school to see what can be achieved jointly for the benefit of the community. The council wants to continue working with local organisations to improve the leisure offer in the town and would be happy to work with Alleyne’s to support our commitment to this.”

Words: Kerry Ashdown, Local Democracy Reporter

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