COUNCILLORS voted to launch a public consultation on cost-cutting proposals to transfer sporting facilities to community management in Weymouth and Portland.
The draft sports facilities strategy, which includes options for the future of The Marsh in Westham and Weymouth Swimming Pool, was discussed at a management committee meeting.
It was produced following concerns over running and maintenance costs at both venues.
The move has been welcomed by the Friends of the Marsh group, who told the Echo they would even consider taking on the management of the popular Westham site.
Chairman of the committee Mike Goodman praised the ‘excellent work’ carried out to produce the strategy and all members agreed that it should be put to full public consultation.
Coun Ian Roebuck said: “The council needs to move from its role as operator to facilitator of venues which can be given over to community management.”
The report, produced by the policy development committee, says the community hand-over would allow the council to change its role while considering ‘the difficult financial climate for local authorities’.
Facilities, which are either run directly by the council or operated by others on their behalf, include Redlands Community Sports Hub, The Front Skate Park, bowls clubs, watersports clubs, tennis courts and grass pitches.
It recommends that a ‘masterplan’ engaging the local community and stakeholders is made for the future of The Marsh, which is owned and run directly by the council.
Although it has pointed out that ‘there is little prospect of a new, high quality athletics facility’ at this location or elsewhere in the borough due to cost and demand.
Councillors expressed the desperate need to address the future of Weymouth Swimming Pool, including options to tackle likely sources of funding available for refurbishment, alternative operating models and long-term revenue costs.
It has been estimated that repair work at the 40-year-old building is set to cost more than £900,000 over the next three years.
• The task to develop a strategy for council-owned sport facilities was put to the policy development committee following a management committee meeting held last year.
The council’s adopted corporate plan includes an action to ‘develop a strategic plan for sports facilities in the borough by March 2014’.
Following public consultation, whereby tenants, hirers and key users will be asked to share their views, a report will be submitted back to the policy development committee and a revised strategy put before management in May 2014.
Facilities go to young players
COUNCILLORS voted to release sports facilities at Grove Corner to Portland United Youth Football Club.
All members of a management committee meeting agreed the move which includes the playing field and Portacabin changing rooms.
It comes ahead of the draft sports facilities strategy to release formerly council-owned and managed venues to community management.
Dave Symes, chairman of Portland United Youth Club, said he was ‘delighted’ at the management committee decision and said he hoped they could help lead the way for more community-run sports facilities in the borough.
He said: “We started out over 15 years ago with 10 kids and jumpers for goalposts. We now have more than 230 members.
“Community management allows the people to decide what they want and to attract more funding grants to keep the site up to date.”
Councillors considered that the release will enable the club to bid for improvement grants to develop firstly the changing facilities and then the playing surfaces at the site.
Groups welcome idea
LOCAL sports groups and leaders have welcomed the idea of community management at The Marsh.
The Friends of the Marsh group said they were ‘actively supporting’ the strategy and would be willing to take over the management of the site, as a representative body of residents and local sports.
Miles Wheller, vice chairman of the group, said the Strategy was discussed in depth at their last meeting.
He added: “We are actively supporting the idea of a community organisation taking on the management of The Marsh.
“We fully appreciate that the council do not have the resources to update the facilities at the site but a community group would have access to a whole range of sporting funds and grants to do so.
“It is something that we as a group would be willing to do.”
The Friends formed originally to safeguard the area from building development.
Don Whistance, Conifer’s Primary School teacher and chairman of the South Dorset Sports Association, said the idea of community management was very welcome but stressed the need for a new, all-weather athletics track at the site.
He says youngsters in the borough have to travel miles to compete and criticised the poor condition of the running track.
The draft sports facilities strategy suggests a transfer of areas of The Marsh to community management ‘without ongoing financial support’.
It also states that the existing track surface at The Marsh is ‘liked by its users’ with no immediate change planned to the facilities there.
Mr Whistance added: “I don’t know how the council can say users ‘like’ the athletics track.
“I just hope whoever does end up running it keeps pushing for a new, all-purpose track for the talented youngsters in the borough.”
Maintenance costs for athletics facility and grass pitches of around £60,000 per annum.
Options open for centre
THE draft sports facilities strategy considers options for the future of Weymouth Swimming and Fitness Centre.
Estimated repair work at Weymouth Swimming and Fitness Centre will cost £971,525 over the next three years, plus VAT, fees and inflation.
The report says: “The pool’s equipment and systems are in need of investment and renewal if the centre is to continue to operate much beyond the period of the current management contract, which ends in 2017.”
It suggests that a detailed appraisal needs to be undertaken by mid-2015 to leave sufficient time if another operating contract were to be produced by 2017.
At present the council pays SLM Ltd an annual management fee of £187,000 and covers the costs of all utilities, which costs £106,000 per year.
The cost of demolishing the current building is estimated at around £880,000, according to the strategy.
THE draft sports facilities strategy includes:
• Weymouth Swimming and Fitness Centre, owned by the council and operated by SLM Ltd.
• Redlands Community Sports Hub, owned by council with 25-year lease given to Weymouth College in 2011.
• The Marsh athletics facility and pitches, council-owned and managed.
• The Marsh club house, council-owned building leased to Cougars FC and Weymouth St Paul’s Harriers & Athletics Club.
• STEPS youth club, freehold owned by council and leased to Dorset County Council for 25 years.
• Weymouth Squash and Fitness Club, freehold owned by the council.
• Grove Road sports field, Portland, council currently holds freehold.
• Weymouth Rugby Club, council owns freehold and leased to club for 50 years from 1985.
• Moonfleet 2000 Indoor Bowls Club (The Marsh), land leased to Moonfleet bowling club until April 2099 and the club own the building.
• Greenhill Bowling Club, council owns freehold and leases to club.
• Weymouth and Melcombe Regis Bowls Club, council owns freehold and leases to club until 2023.
• Victoria Gardens Bowling Green and Pavilion, green managed by council but club rents Pavilion from council.
• Victoria Garden Tennis Courts, leased from the Crown and operated by the council.
• Greenhill Gardens Tennis Courts and Putting Green, licence to the cafe operator has expired.
• Radipole Park tennis and basketball Courts, public courts are council operated and free to use and tarmac courts and pavilion leased to the club for 28 years until 2002.
• Wyke Regis Gardens Tennis Courts, operated by council.
• The Front skate park, council owns freehold and leased to Weymouth College/The Front.
• Portland Skate Park, council owns freehold and manages the site.
• Watersports clubs including Weymouth Rowing Club, Weymouth Sailing Club, Weymouth Sea Cadets, Weymouth Outdoor Education Centre – council holds freehold and leases out.