Ipswich: Town Trust to make new signing?

IPSWICH: Bosses connected to Ipswich Town are considering making their first major signing of 2011... the Whitton Sports Centre.

Borough councillors have agreed to talk to the ITFC Charitable Trust about handing over the centre to them.

The Trust would continue to run the centre for the community, and would be likely to continue the emphasis on football there.

Its trustees are due to meet next week to discuss the possible takeover of the centre – after the borough’s executive procurement committee discussed the proposal yesterday.

No details about the deal have been made public, but the council is looking to cut the running costs of the centre which are about �170,000 a year.

An Ipswich council spokesman said: “We are talking to Ipswich Town Football Club Charitable Trust about proposals for Whitton Sports Centre and this matter is being discussed by the Executive Procurement Committee.

“We believe there are some exciting possibilities to explore but no decisions have been taken yet.”

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No one from the ITFC Charitable Trust would comment on the proposal at this stage – but The Evening Star understands that both parties are very keen on the proposed link-up.

There are long-term plans for more football pitches to be developed at the sports centre when the nearby King George V playing fields are redeveloped for housing.

Opposition leisure spokeswoman at the borough Bryony Rudkin said her group would want assurances that the Trust was keen to take on the centre and that it would continue to be a community resource.

She said: “This is not something we would oppose in principle, but it does seem as if there is no real strategy behind the council’s plans for its sports centres.

“Northgate and Gainsborough are seen as the crown jewels and other solutions are being sought for Whitton. Maidenhall Sports Centre could be closed. We would like to see more thought given to all the centres.”

The move was welcomed by North Ipswich MP Dr Dan Poulter, who has campaigned for more facilities for the north west of the town since he was elected in May last year.

He said: “This news is very encouraging if it means there is more focus put into facilities in that part of the town.

“We have seen over recent months how Whitton United have been able to improve facilities for the community and I would hope that if the ITFC Charitable Trust does take over the running of the sports centre that it would work with Whitton United and other interested groups to improve what is on offer in that part of the town.”

n Would you welcome the takeover of Whitton Sports Centre? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or e-mail eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk