Town's 'leisure review' sparks anger

PLANS to hand the running of an outdoor swimming back to its owners would “kill sport” in a Suffolk town, the group's chairman warned last night.

Mark Lord

PLANS to hand the running of an outdoor swimming back to its owners would “kill sport” in a Suffolk town, the group's chairman warned last night.

Waveney District Council currently has control of the open air facilities in Halesworth and Beccles.

But as revealed by the EADT yesterday a review of the authority's leisure services could put their futures at risk - because they are not providing value for money.

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As a result it has been proposed that the running of Halesworth pool be handed back to it owners - Halesworth Playing Field Association (PFA).

But last night Tony Goldson, chairman of the PFA, said that would be “disastrous” as they did not have the funds to run it.

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“If this goes ahead then the result will be that there will no longer be any sports facilities left in Halesworth,” he said. This will be disastrous for the town - the pool will close as we don't have the funds to run it.

“What makes this doubly worse is that the people of Halesworth originally raised the money to build the pool, all of that effort will have been wasted.”

Halesworth pool, Halesworth Rifle Hall and Beccles pool have come under particular scrutiny in the confidential report, which will be discussed by the district council on September 25.

According to the document Halesworth pool cost Waveney £13.50 a head in 2007/08, Halesworth Rifle Hall £7.54 a head and Beccles pool £5.82 a head.

Mr Goldson said that he will be organising a public meeting to discuss what Waveney's plans will mean for sport in the town and to rally support to try and save the pool and rifle hall.

“I will also be calling for a public inquiry into the matter,” he added.

Rita Hales, swimming teacher with Halesworth Ducklings, said: “Obviously this news will have a big impact on us as we use the pool during the summer to teach children to swim. If, as the PFA say, the pool will have to close then we will be left without a base to work from.”

The report recommends that Halesworth pool is returned to the PFA immediately and would no longer be operated by the council from next April.

The Rifle Hall would no longer be offered as a service from April 2009 - with Waveney exploring options for the site in partnership with Halesworth Town Council.

Meanwhile Beccles pool would also no longer be managed directly by the council from next April - with officers looking at options for continued provision of the service where possible, or alternative disposal of the site “if enabling options are not viable”.

Waveney has said it is keen to work closely with the Halesworth PFA to see how leisure facilities can be boosted in the town.

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