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THE news that Christie Miller Sports Centre is to close next month has caused outrage amongst both users and clubs that use the facilities, who have been left with no alternative provision.
Club leaders and members have blasted the short-notice closure as ‘disgusting’ and have demanded that Wiltshire Council find them alternative venues in the local area. Parents have also hit out at the news, saying that the council is denying a generation of children access to sports and fitness facilities.
The news that the sports centre will close on Friday 19th October came at last week’s Melksham Area Board meeting. Explaining the decision to close the sports centre, Wiltshire Council cabinet member for campuses John Thomson, revealed that it would cost up to £1million to make the building safe for use.
Cllr Thomson said that any money spent on Christie Miller sports centre would come out of the budget for the planned community campus, jeopardising the future of the development.
It was revealed that the re-provision of facilities was explored and that the council had considered providing a studio and fitness suite, at a cost of £300,000 – but the option was dismissed because of the impact it would have on the campus budget.
“Every penny I spend on other provision, is less money for the campus,” said cllr Thomson.
But the closure plans have come under heavy criticism, especially as only one month’s notice has been given.
Local mum Teresa Strange, whose children use the centre, said at the area board meeting, “I have to explain to my 12-year-old that she is not playing netball in November when she thinks she is, and a son who won’t play badminton there.
“All of the provision in Melksham is already full up, there’s no sports for a generation and there won’t be until 2021, two and a half years!”
James Stapleton, director of Future of Football, who has used the sports centre on a weekly basis for five years to run training sessions for children, said, “I’m pretty fuming – I found out on Facebook about the closure before being notified – it came as a real shock.
“It’s been explained why the centre is closing, but my anger is that they have done this with no thought, no consideration for any of the clubs. We have 120 children attend our club every week, we have a great reputation, and have built this up over the past five years – Wiltshire Council has shown no regard for this.
“It is unacceptable that there has been no alternative indoor venue in Melksham for us to use. They have offered the use of facilities in their other sports centres, like Devizes on a Friday – but this would add on an hour to a parent’s journey and it’s not possible to expect people to do this. We want an indoor venue in Melksham.
“There seems to be no planning, no thought – the campus is not ready – it’s disgusting how we’ve been treated! If they had looked into what clubs have regular bookings at Christie Miller, they would know what they are affecting – it’s livelihoods, they are destroying clubs and sports for kids.
“We have been treated badly, there has been no notice, and no thought gone into what happens next.”
Andy Tombling from T.A.G.B. Tae Kwon-Do, said, “I’ve been running my club at Christie Miller since 1984 – no-one contacted me about the closure, I had to find out from a third party. The closure is unacceptable, disgusting, crazy – to give us one month’s notice!
“I have children and adults attending the club, and we are the only club in Melksham that is recognised by Sport England and by the governing body of the sport. We have 60 members that include international and regional champions.
“I’m in limbo at the moment, but I am in the process of trying to find a new venue -I’ve been phoning around schools. It is very bad news to have to change locations – we had a new intake before summer, and they are enroled and ready to go with their new uniforms to train at Christie Miller – the children and parents have made plans to travel to the centre, to walk there. Moving the club will create problems.”
Richard Bell, who is a member of the indoor bowls club, which is based at the centre said, “Whilst those of us who use Christie Miller for its gym, indoor bowls and other activities acknowledge its state leaves a lot to be desired, surely it is better than nothing, which is the case for the immediate future and for the foreseeable future as far as indoor bowls is concerned.
“Christie Miller has been in a rundown state for quite a while, why cannot closure wait until alternative facilities are available? Closure now will leave a lot of disappointed local residents and the ruination of indoor bowling for the dozens of league players who use the rinks.”
At the area board meeting, cllr Thomson said that work to help support clubs find new venues could not begin until the news of Christie Miller’s closure was made public.