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Bid to close High Peak squash courts to go to public consultation

Campaigners who fear for the possible loss of squash courts and a reduced sports hall as part of proposed changes at New Mills Leisure Centre will no doubt welcome High Peak Borough Council’s announcement that any plans will be subject to a public consultation before any final decisions.

Many concerned residents – opposed to the proposals – attended a council meeting with banners calling for the preservation of the courts and the larger-sized sports hall and campaigner Maurice McCabe urged the council to work with concerned residents, hold a public consultation, and explain the logic behind its plans to replace the squash court with a new wellness centre.

Mr McCabe said: “We are very concerned about the proposed changes to New Mills Leisure Centre. As far as we understand, High Peak Borough Council intends to remove the squash court and a third of the sports hall, and replace them with a wellness centre, gym and fitness studio.

“The squash court is currently a flourishing part of the local community, enjoyed by around 200 users of all ages over a three-month period, including at least 30 juniors.

“Significant public interest has been shown in retaining the squash court as evidenced by an 800-plus strong petition and a protest attended by 50+ people.”

Mr McCabe added that the council-run sports hall  at the centre, on Hyde Bank Road, is also used throughout the week by hundreds of people of all ages for a variety of sports including primary and secondary school children and campaigners fear a smaller hall will mean many activities will become impossible.

The campaigners fear proposed changes will negatively affect children’s sport and they stated that they have been told that without the proposed changes to the leisure centre it will be no longer financially viable in ten years’ time and that the changes may be the only option to keep it open.

Mr McCabe urged the council to hold a public consultation and commit to working with residents, and he questioned how the proposed changes fitted with the council’s Move More strategy for residents.

High Peak Borough Council confirmed that engagement with user groups has been ongoing and after considering further public engagement it announced on March 25 that there will also be a public consultation.

The council also stated it has prioritised investment in leisure facilities and it has been working to develop more viable plans including for the New Mills Leisure Centre so future investment will be affordable,

A council spokesperson stated: “We are aware that proposals to re-purpose the squash court at New Mills Leisure Centre would impact on a group of existing users, including a small number of approximately twenty to thirty junior players, however, as the court is only used for approximately 33 out of an available 80 hours per week, considering whether this space could be better utilised to engage a larger number of people is justified, particularly considering the restrictions of being unable to extend the building in a sufficient way to expand facilities.

READ MORE: https://www.questmedianetwork.co.uk/news/glossop-chronicle/high-peak-borough-council-to-close-new-mills-squash-court/

“Engagement regarding proposals to re-purpose the equivalent space of one badminton court is also ongoing as we are very keen to understand what the impact of this would have.

“We are specifically keen to understand what activities would stop should this change be implemented in addition to understanding what new opportunities might be created as a result of the changes.”

High Peak Borough Council stated that it is planning to invest in improving the facilities at New Mills Leisure Centre as part of its wider leisure transformation programme and it has pledged that local views will help shape decisions on what is delivered.

The council also stated that engagement with the community and leisure centre users has been taking place and this has resulted in a range of views and the council has pledged to carry out further engagement before a report considering the final designs is considered in June which will be followed a public consultation during the summer.

Cllr Damien Greenhalgh, Deputy Leader and Executive Councillor for Regeneration, Tourism and Leisure, said: “The council remains committed to investing significant sums in improving leisure facilities across the borough, including New Mills, at a time when many other councils are unfortunately having to reduce or even close leisure facilities due to increasing costs.

“As part of these plans, we’ve been listening to the views of specific user groups of the leisure centre in New Mills which local councillors have made strong representations to the council on. This has resulted in a range of opinions being received and I have asked officers to continue these conversations in the coming weeks as we look to finalise the plans which will go to wider public consultation in the summer.

“No decisions have yet been made but we know how important this facility is for the physical and mental health of many residents and that’s why we’re seeking to make a range of improvements which will safeguard the long term viability of the centre.”

Following full consideration of user groups’ views and a public consultation along with the viability of proposed changes for the New Mills Leisure Centre, the council expects to make a final decision on the proposals by December.

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