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Sports Leaders Comment on Major Review of Weymouth Facilities


9:33am 14th April 2014

The futures of Weymouth and Portland's sports facilities, like Weymouth Swimming Pool, are under the microscope today (Monday 14th April).

The Borough's Policy Development Committee are carrying out a major review looking into how they run and manage their sporting hubs in South Dorset.

The Sports Facility Strategy is a long term future vision for the Borough and the Council is now setting out the groundwork for future negotiations with sports groups.

But it's led to fears some Council run sports facilities could lose their funding and be forced to close.

Local clubs and major governing bodies, including the Football Association (FA) and the Lawn Tennis Association (LTA) , have had their say on south Dorset's facilities during a 9 week consultation.

Two major sports hubs being closely scrutinised are Weymouth's Swimming Pool and The Marsh Open Space & Track.

Both are large, expensive for the Council to run, and in desperate need of a facelift. It currently costs £60,000 a year for the local authority to keep the Marsh in shape.

Dorset County Council said in the consultation, completely withdrawing funding from the Marsh wouldn't be viable and "a master plan" is needed to determine the facilities future.

"We welcome the move to try and maintain the facility for training and recreation use as there are very few athletics facilities in South Dorset" .... "a master plan is required however this must be realistic and achievable and it is likely that it will require continued council subsidy."

Weymouth Swimming Club joined the charge saying a band of volunteers simply would not be able to take over running the swimming pool in the town because it was too big and expensive a task.

The pool is in desperate need of an upgrade that is likely to cost the Borough Council a substantial sum of money on the budget. The Amateur Swimming Association has offered to help the local authority assess the facility’s needs, free of charge. The County Council commented that the future maintenance of the site would be a "huge obstacle to overcome."

"There is a concern that is unrealistic to assume there will be no need for substantial revenue support from the local council even if a not for profit organisation take over the running of the swimming pool and other facilities. Swimming pools run at substantial losses and therefore not for profit organisations, although possibly offering some savings, will still require substantial revenue subsidy."

Weymouth swimming pools is out of contract in 2017.

We asked Brief Holder for Community Facilities Andy Blackwood if any sports facilities face closure down the line, as a result of their review.

"We gotta be realistic, we are in a very difficult financial position at the moment and that's also one of the reasons for looking at how the Council provides sports facilities in the Borough. It's a possibility, but it's certainly something I want to avoid."

Some smaller facilities like football pitches and bowling greens could end up being run by local clubs or volunteers if the council decides to withdraw funding for their upkeep.

Councillor Blackwood says this is a good idea;

"It would be more club based rather than just a band of volunteers and still it needs some careful work, which is why we're doing this review, but potentially I think that's a realistic proposition that local sports clubs could take responsibility for things."

Mr Blackwood told us Weymouth and Portland Borough are committed to providing sports facilities for tax payers so they can maintain a level of fitness and wellbeing, while enjoying the pleasures that games and leisure have to offer.

The Borough's Policy Development Committee will look at the feedback later and are expected to sign off the Sports Facility Strategy that will then be discussed at management Committee in June.

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