CAMPAIGNERS called on council chiefs to continue supporting the Marsh playing fields in Weymouth as they presented a petition.

It came as councillors approved the new sports facilities strategy for the borough.

The strategy will run until 2019 and looks at how council owned sports facilities will be run and maintained in the future with a focus on handing even more facilities to community groups.

The Friends of the Marsh handed in a petition with 1,200 signatures before Weymouth and Portland Borough Council’s management committee met this morning.

Although funding is in place for the borough council to maintain the Marsh for 2014-15, campaigners said they wanted to send a message to the council that they wanted the commitment to continue.

Speaking before the meeting, David Nelmes from Weymouth Amateur Boxing Club said they were pleased with the response from the public to the petition.

He said: “We have got more than 1,200 signatures, we need 600 so I have been told to get a full council debate on it.

“We are pleased with the reaction.”

He said the Friends of the Marsh were keen to get a debate about its future.

Mr Nelmes said: “We want the borough council to keep maintaining it as a recreational facility.”

He urged everyone interested in their plans for the future of the Marsh, including a potential new boxing facility, to come to a meeting on Wednesday night at Steps youth club at 6.30pm.

Management committee chairman Cllr Mike Byatt is also the chairman of the Friends of the Marsh group.

Speaking before the meeting, he said he was delighted with the response from the public to the petition.

But there was a heated exchange of words in the meeting, with Cllr Gill Taylor voicing concerns that the Friends group was being run by ‘one political party’ – meaning Labour.

She said that despite showing interest when the group was formed in 2012, none of the councillors not part of the political group had been invited to subsequent meetings.

She said that a community group representing a borough council asset had to be inclusive to everyone and not exclusive.

Cllr Taylor said she believed the Marsh would ‘benefit hugely’ by a friends group, but by one that was ‘cross party’ and involved residents and councillors of all political leanings.

Cllr Byatt responded and said the Friends group was a ‘resident led, community-based forum’ and that meetings were open to everyone. He said: “The Friends of the Marsh is open to anyone to come along to. It doesn’t exclude- it’s not politically led.”


Future vision for sport

THE NEW sports strategy masterplan sets out the future vision for sport in the borough.

The plan looks at how council-owned facilities will be run and maintained in future with the focus on handing even more facilities to community groups.

It also looks at how the borough council can help to sustain levels of physical activity.

A public consultation was held on the plans between January and March and those views have been included in the plan’s development The facilities the plan looks at includes those owned and operated by the borough council like The Marsh, those owned and operated by others like Weymouth Swimming Pool, or facilities leased to others such as Redlands Community Sports Hub.

Community Facilities spokesman for the council Cllr Ian Bruce said: “We would like to thank all those who had their say on the proposals and the many groups that are already running sporting facilities.

“The council has looked at the way it manages facilities in the borough and having this strategy in place will help us to manage how the borough’s sports facilities are operated and run in the future.”