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News Archive > General > Backlash over gifted squash courts closing

Backlash over gifted squash courts closing

By Natasha Swift 13th September 2017

Backlash over gifted squash courts closing
Ashley Shopland

THE DECISION to close the squash courts at Polkyth Leisure Centre has been called “concerning” by St Austell’s MP after it was revealed that the facility was built and funded by Imerys for the community.

Refurbishment work is due to get underway at Polkyth Leisure Centre on Monday which will see the gym expanded, new fitness studio created and other works carried out to provide a larger, more up-to-date facility.

The Voice revealed two weeks ago that, as part of these plans, the squash courts at Polkyth would be converted into the expanded gym and studio space, after a drop in the number of bookings.

Squash players are being offered alternative facilities after GLL, which started operating Cornwall Council’s leisure facilities from April 1, announced it would be making the changes as part of £23m  of investment and upgrading of the county’s leisure facilities.

A spokesman for GLL said the decision had been taken due to a decline in the number of people using the squash courts, which meant they were not sustainable.

But since it was revealed the squash courts will be lost, St Austell’s MP, Steve Double, has spoken out against the closure, along with residents and Imerys, which donated the facilities to residents more than four decades ago.  

The two squash courts at Polkyth were built for the community in 1974 by the china clay industry, with the project being funded by English China Clays, which was acquired by Imerys in 1999, as part of the company’s wider investments in community infrastructure and good causes.

Imerys general manager - UK platform, Ashley Shopland, said: “As a major employer contributing significantly to the local economy and community, the china clay industry, through Imerys and prior to this ECC, has a long history of supporting local community projects.

“The squash courts at Polkyth were built and paid for by ECC and donated to the local community as a facility for people to use. There is still a plaque in place on the wall recognising this donation by the company and the courts themselves are well used to this day.

“As someone who uses the facility, I join many others in being deeply disappointed at the decision and the complete lack of consultation with users before it was taken.

“From a company perspective, it is equally disappointing and unsatisfactory that Better has failed to recognise the contribution by ECC or to consult with Imerys before pressing ahead in shutting a sports facility, which was built for and gifted in perpetuity to the community.”

Mr Double said: “I am very disappointed by what appears to be a very short sighted decision by Cornwall Council to remove squash court provision from Polkyth.

“This is particularly concerning in the light that the courts were paid for by donation from Imerys. I would have expected Cornwall Council to have consulted Imerys before a decision was made but clearly this has not happened.

“I understand demanded for squash courts is not as high as it once was but I would have thought a compromise of at least keeping one court would have been sensible.”

Longstanding squash player Matthew Ville, said they had been given four weeks notice to cease playing a sport with zero communication or consultation. He said: “Up to this point there has been a disrespectful lack of transparency from GLL and Cornwall Council. I’m not saying as a squash player I have more right than any other member of the community to know the plans for a community service.

“My feeling is that everyone in the community should have at least been made aware of the situation a long time ago, and maybe given change to offer their voice.

“Instead we're given four weeks notice to cease playing a sport that's been in the community for over 40 years, zero communication or consultation. I think the whole situation with the squash court closure at Polkyth has been very underhanded.”

In a joint statement,  GLL and Cornwall Council said: “GLL and Cornwall Council’s partnership is investing £23m in Cornwall’s public leisure facilities to create a 21st century leisure legacy attracting thousands more users in upgraded facilities.

“As the squash court at Polkyth has only 11 regular users each week, the facility is not sustainable. By converting the squash courts the gym expansion is projected to reach an extra 64,000 annual users; helping to get more people active in Cornwall.

“Polkyth’s squash players can continue to play their favourite sport in St Austell through GLL’s investment in upgraded squash facilities at the rugby club.

“The public provision is part of our commitment to community players in seven affordable locations across the county.  In addition, players have access to their nearest Better centres and gym access across the county - including at Polkyth.

“GLL included extending the gym at Polkyth in their tender proposal to Cornwall Council;  the low number of regular squash players did not reach the threshold for public consultation.”

By Natasha Swift 13th September 2017

Fabien 13th September 2017 15:42
This is really sad, The sport is growing all over the world and a lot of time it comes down to finding the right manager to drive the demand up. Squash is a pretty addictive game and it really helps when there is a group looking to add new players. In DC in the US our club uses Squash Revolution http://www.squashrevolution.com/ to manage their squash program and it is fantastic! I highly recommend having a team that recognizes that as Squash even if it is a sport it is still a business.
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