Brightlingsea town councillors have said they are "bitterly disappointed" at Tendring District Council's (TDC) refusal to extend funding for Brightlingsea sports centre beyond the end of March.
A plea by district councillor and Brightlingsea deputy mayor Mick Barrry for funding to be extended for up to 12 months was rejected at a TDC budget meeting earlier this week. At last night's meeting (February 17) of Brightlingsea Town Council, councillors said they were "bitterly disappointed" that TDC would not continue to provide funding for the centre after its joint use agreement with the Sigma Trust – which owns the sports centre building at the Colne College – was not renewed at the end of 2021.
Although TDC says it is not closing the centre, its refusal to guarantee future funding in a bid to save £76,000 a year could mean that use of the centre will be severely curtailed as Sigma Trust staff may not be able to cover weekend, school holiday and late evening opening – threatening the activities of several long-established sports clubs in the town, as well as occasional users. The 12 month extension asked for would have given the town council and other interested parties time to explore more options for keeping the centre open.
Brightlingsea mayor and district councillor Jayne Chapman was at the TDC budget meeting and told town councillors last night: "It was was clear that the Conservative adminstration had whipped their members to oppose. Consequently, despite the overwhelming case for the proposal they disregarded all logic and voted against". Clr Barry's motion was lost by 23 votes to 22 with two abstentions.
Town councillors agreed the following statement:
"Brightlingsea Town Council is bitterly disappointed that the ruling administration of TDC refused to reinstate budget funding for the Brightlingsea Sports Centre beyond 31st March 2022. This is despite overwhelming support for retaining the facility with evidence from Sport England and Active Essex strategy documents, TDC’s own policies and Local Plan, and a comprehensive survey of residents.
"The quality of life and the health and wellbeing of residents, has been ignored for an unverified and speculative financial saving, with no regard for the long term impact upon all sections of the Brightlingsea community.
This council instructs its district representatives to liaise with the Sigma Trust and continue to seek transitional financial support from TDC to alleviate the worst effects of this appalling decision.
The town clerk is asked to write to the leader of the council and request that he outlines the rationale for the decision and explain how he will take forward his pledge to address the issue of future funding through the Corporate Investment Plan.
District councillors are also requested to make urgent representations to the Chief Executive of Tendring District Council, Ian Davidson, and the constituency MP, Sir Bernard Jenkin about the negative consequences of this decision upon the Brightlingsea community.
Finally, town councillors are asked to convene a public consultation meeting with residents, with a view to establishing a working forum and a campaign team to continue representations to relevant authorities."
• TDC is considering hiring a physical activity co-ordinator for the district at a cost of £162,850 spread over three years. The bulk of the money – £107,000 – would come from Sport England with the remainder being paid by TDC and will cover recruitment costs, IT and expenses, as well as salary. The role would support the Sport England Local Delivery Pilot, an initiative led by Active Essex to build healthier, more active communities across the county. Final approval for the role has yet to be formally made.
• Have you been affected by the changes at the sports centre? Comment below or contact us.