Ormiston Academies Trust might shut Ipswich's Maidenhall Sports Centre to public - just months after saying it wouldn't

PUBLISHED: 11:13 25 June 2017 | UPDATED: 11:13 25 June 2017

Maidenhall Sports Centre. Picture: GREGG BROWN

Maidenhall Sports Centre. Picture: GREGG BROWN

A sports centre in Ipswich will be closed to the public for the foreseeable future when it is taken over from the council by an academy school trust, despite a pledge to keep it open to the community.

The borough council will cease to manage Maidenhall Sports Centre, based in the grounds of Stoke High School, from June 30, after which time it will be run by Ormiston Academies Trust (OAT).

The facility will be shut throughout the summer for refurbishment work, and once it reopens it will be used by the school only.

The academy trust, which sponsors Stoke High, has said it “hopes” to allow members of the public to use the sports centre in the future, but has not confirmed that it will do so.

This is a U-turn for both OAT and Ipswich Borough Council (IBC).

In March, OAT said in a statement to this newspaper: “The community will also still be able to make best use of the sports centre, with clubs making bookings through the academy.”

While when IBC announced plans in January to give up the management of Maidenhall to OAT, it said it hoped this move, which will save the authority £125,000 a year, will ‘increase community involvement’.

A spokeswoman for OAT said today: “From the July 1, the sports centre will be closing for the summer so that we can carry out essential works and refurbishment so that it provides the best possible facilities for the new school year. This will include new flooring and installation of solar panels on the roof to ensure the centre is environmentally sustainable.

“The current management agreement for the sports centre expires at the end of June and from the start of July it will transfer to Ormiston Academies Trust. Once the centre reopens it will be for the sole use of Stoke High School and its students. We do hope to be able to offer the centre and facilities to the local community in future and we will continue to keep the community updated as plans develop.”

A spokesman for IBC said it would be working with the individuals and clubs who currently use Maidenhall to accommodate them in its three remaining sports centres in the town, which are Gainsborough, Northgate and Whitton.

He added: “We very much hope that the trust’s plans will include use of the facilities by the community.”

Randall Bevan was the director of recreation and amenities at Ipswich Borough Council from 1975 to 1986, and he helped to establish Maidenhall Sports Centre under the ‘joint provision scheme’, which means the school uses the facilities during the day and then they are opened to the public in the evening and weekends.

He said: “It has worked successfully and efficiently. It has produced very many sports people. It has given so much pleasure for so many people and it is the best way to safeguard sports facilities for the community.”

Mr Bevan, who is 83 and still lives in Ipswich, said if the sports centre did close to the public, it would have a “devastating impact” on the surrounding neighbourhood.

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