Sudbury Town Council voices support for campaign to re-open local sports centre after bemoaning lack of clarity on facility's future
Sudbury councillors opposed to the controversial closure of a long-running sports facility have vowed to raise the issue at “the highest level possible”, arguing the decision makers needed to be accountable.
Sudbury Sports Centre in Tudor Road shut for public use at the start of this month, with a community campaign formed in response to lobby for it to remain open.
Site owner Ormiston Sudbury Academy stated it took the “difficult decision” not to go out to tender, after its contract with Abbeycroft Leisure ended, due to the Covid-19 crisis and the “uncertainty about what recovery would look like”.
However, the closure decision, and the way it was communicated, has come under fire from Save Our Sudbury Sports Centre Campaign, amid concerns about its impact on regular users and clubs.
At a full Sudbury Town Council meeting on Tuesday, councillors expressed support for the campaign, and called for further clarity from Ormiston as to how the decision was reached, and whether the centre will reopen to the public in future.
Members indicated they will take the matter up with the MP for South Suffolk and the regional schools commissioner, adding that it is vital to encourage sports participation post-Covid, and with recent British successes in the Olympic Games and the US Open.
Councillor Jack Owen, a former town mayor, told the meeting: “I think it’s absolutely critical that we can’t let these things go by without raising it at the highest level possible.
“We have had a very successful Olympic campaign, a very successful Paralympic campaign, and just recently, we’ve had someone who has won the tennis in America.
“Quite frankly, MPs and the Government ought to be holding these people to task, because I don’t believe an academy should have that right that, quite clearly, they have.
“That sports centre, that leisure centre, is there for the community. For one group of board of directors to make the decision, I find amazing.”
Ormiston Sudbury Academy and Babergh District Council confirmed that discussions are ongoing, stating they understand the important role the sports centre played in the community and are “committed to exploring ways this can continue”.
An Ormiston Academies Trust spokesman said they will reflect on how to balance the needs of the school and the local community to “achieve the best outcome for all concerned”, and will communicate with all interested parties.
During Tuesday’s town council meeting, Babergh cabinet member Jan Osborne said they are working hard to find a resolution, but that the final decision would ultimately be down to Ormiston.
Councillor Nigel Bennett said: “I think the real issue here is that the school hasn’t involved its community. It’s an issue for the school in how it sees its community.
“A decision made in March, not relayed by the school, and the communication not coming until the summer holiday, meant people had no time to prepare.
“A school needs to think about the community it serves, and I think there’s a problem in how this has been communicated.”
A public meeting to discuss the sports centre closure will now take place at Sudbury Town Hall on September 29, from 7pm.