NORTH SOMERSET: Reopen Churchill pool
Villagers demanding the reopening of a Somerset sports centre say they “won’t go away quietly”.
Pressure is mounting on North Somerset Council to save Churchill Sports Centre, which shut in March 2020 due to the impact of the pandemic and the departure of the previous commercial operator.
Despite seeking a solution for more than a year, residents of the Mendip villages still do not have access to vital swimming and other fitness facilities.
Speaking at the full council meeting on November 9, campaigner Jill Maycock said: “We’ve had our amenity taken away from us without explanation or justification and we are frankly very tired with North Somerset Council kicking the can down the road.
“Our frustration is shared by Churchill Academy who complain that they have a dead building in the middle of their school site.”
Ms Maycock said rural communities were losing out, with an alarming number of children unable to learn to swim, and a “ticking time bomb” for health services resulting from a “fitness crisis”.
“Does the council not care about the residents of the Mendip villages, or do your strategies only apply to the residents of Weston, Portishead and Clevedon?” she said.
“If it’s going to cost you around £300,000 to decommission the centre, why aren’t you willing instead to invest in the repairs and work with the community, Churchill Academy and a reputable local leisure operator to operate it for the benefit of the community?
“You have asked us to jump many hurdles and we’ve done this at every stage. When are you going to give us the courtesy of an answer and meet your obligations?
“We are not going to go away quietly.”
Councillor Mike Solomon, the executive member for community services, said there had been “constant” communication about reopening the centre.
“Obviously, we are struggling to find money for this project,” he said.
“The only thing that we have really ruled out is a company that’s being set up by residents within Churchill. There doesn’t seem to be any real appetite for that.
“We’re looking at the other options and I will come back very quickly.”
The campaign has been backed by Blagdon and Churchill ward councillor Patrick Keating, who said the council needs to push Government to honour its promise to invest in local pools.
Weston-super-Mare and the villages MP John Penrose said: “Churchill Sports Centre has huge support from local families who want to have fun, keep fit and teach their children to swim, as well as a powerhouse of skilled residents who will work with the Council, the leisure centre operator and the school so it can be financially self-sustaining in future.
“Hutton Moor Pool is already fully used, so Churchill’s pool is essential to cope with all this extra demand. We can’t afford to let this vital community asset go.”
Words: Stephen Sumner, Local Democracy Reporter
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