Leisure lotto boost welcomed

AN 'essential' £7.5 million leisure centre extension will go ahead despite a Lottery funding crisis which could stop other community sports projects in their tracks.

AN 'essential' £7.5 million leisure centre extension will go ahead despite a Lottery funding crisis which could stop other community sports projects in their tracks.

But while the town of Newmarket is celebrating its successful bid to Sport England, officials hoping to create an all-round facility for hockey, cycling and tennis in Bury St Edmunds could be in jeopardy.

A drop in Lottery ticket sales has reduced the funds available to good causes around the country, with all applications to Sport England frozen until the body is restructured.

Among groups still waiting are officials planning the sports facility on Rougham Hill, near Bury. If a bid to Sport England was successful, the town's hockey club was to move to the site, news of which has provoked interest from the Risbygate Tennis, Bowls and Squash Club.

"We are now in a position to commence with the development, but Sport England is in a financial crisis and the £1.5 million promised may not be there any more," said David Johnson, vice-president of Bury Hockey Club.

"We are still hopeful that things will go ahead, but this will delay us. We wanted to have the first hockey pitches in place by September, but are now in the hands of Sport England."

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But in Newmarket, Forest Heath District Council should receive between £2.5 and £3 million for the leisure centre scheme, with the remaining cash coming from Suffolk County Council, Forest Heath itself and East Cambridgeshire District Council.

The town's 70-year-old swimming pool will be replaced as part of the project, for which no firm timescale has yet been agreed.

"Our funding will remain in place and we will continue with the scheme," said Ian Shipp, leisure services manager at Forest Heath.

"Things are not totally finalised, but Sport England has given us an answer in principle to allow us to revamp existing fitness areas and changing rooms at the leisure centre. It is now up to us to drive the project through.

"This is an essential scheme, and very much needed in Newmarket."

A spokesman for Sport England said recent applications made to the body had been frozen until its procedures had been overhauled.

"We have stopped making any commitments to funding while we restructure our business and make the application process easier," he said.

"Later this year, we should be in a position to open the doors again. Our income is falling, and a drop in Lottery sales has had a big impact.

"But anyone who has been rejected can always reapply. We always show people where they need to improve in order to secure our support. The applicant can then address that and come back to us."

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