Former town mayor enters Beccles Sport Centre row
- Credit: EDP pics © 2006
A former mayor of Beccles who took part in negotiations almost 20 years ago which led to an agreement for Sir John Leman High School to use Beccles Sports Centre has spoken out about changes to the centre.
Christopher Scott, 71, was town mayor in 1996 but served as a town councillor from 1993 until May 2015.
Although his post had ended by the time an agreement was signed, he was involved in two years of talks and said the development of the site went against the agreement.
The Journal reported earlier this month how the school, which operates the centre in Ringsfield Road, began a three-year project which will see the site renamed The Venue, and includes refurbishment through much of the building, creating five new spaces for classrooms and other learning areas.
However, it will also see the loss of one of its two squash courts and some activities moved to the main school building - something which has angered many users.
Mr Scott said: “The centre was under Suffolk County Council at the time and there was a committee set up with Waveney district and the town council to decide what to do with the facility.
“We had negotiations with the school to sort out the sporting facilities and it was agreed that the school could use it and the building would be available for the public to use at other times.
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“The school took over the management of the centre but had to offer it to the public in the evenings and at the weekend.”
Mr Scott’s term in office ended before the issue was resolved, but he said an agreement was signed by the then headteacher.
He said: “I’m annoyed about the latest decision to change the centre as it goes against the agreement.
“I was involved from the beginning and we had two years of eight meetings about it. It takes away from the town and I don’t think there will be enough facilities. I can say I was there when the process was happening and I am sure this is not what was intended when the talks took place all those years ago.”
Mr Scott can recall the centre being built in the late 1960s and said money was raised locally to help fund the project, although he acknowledged that the facility had been neglected over the years. Although the centre will still be open to the public as before, Mr Scott said: “It’s not the same because they are putting classrooms in it, and children are coming from other parts of the county to go to the school and we have the adults going to other parts of the county to use sports facilities - it doesn’t make sense.
“A lot of people have been using the centre for 40-odd years and you have to consider people of all ages - I might be sitting here at 71, but I still go mountain biking.
“It is part of our heritage and it was built so the people of Beccles could use it and paid for by the people of Beccles. I think it is very sad when I think what we went through to make it happen.”
Speaking when the changes were announced, headteacher Jeremy Rowe said: “The community’s support for us over the last couple of years has been unbelievable so the last thing we want to do is upset them, but it’s a change, and we understand that, but we see it as a positive change.”
And senior deputy headteacher Mr Taylor added: “We are not shutting anything down except one squash court. We want to expand what is going on, rather than reducing it, so the centre has money to reinvest and there will now be the whole school and a bigger capacity to hire out, so there is space for more classes.”