Users of North Walsham’s popular sports centre have been urged to do a petition to voice concerns over a planned management switch.

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Moves are afoot to transfer the centre from North Norfolk District Council to merge with the new Atrium arts hub on the high school which has also hosted the sports facility on its campus since 1986,

But there are worries it would put the future of the sports centre, which currently has a £73,000 council subsidy, in danger - along with anger about the lack of consultation particularly with the voluntary management committee at the centre.

Mayor Dave Robertson told town councillors on Tuesday the move went against the council’s own sport and leisure strategy which said the authority was best-placed to provide facilities to encourage sports in disadvantaged communities.

He also queried why the council was not looking at similar moves at other centres such as Sheringham Splash and Cromer where there were larger subsidies of £195,000 and £79,000.

Anne Rose said it would be a “crying shame” if the centre was lost to help support the school’s “dicey” Atrium - which is striving to attract more users in its first year.

And Eric Seward said the move was not because the council was short of money as it had put £250,000 into reserves this month alone. It was so the Conservative-led authority could tell voters it had cut their council tax “but you lose facilities as a result.”

Earlier in public question time the centre’s acting chairman Richard Palmer called the proposals irresponsible, dubious and misguided and asked why the school, which had a poor attendance record at centre committee meetings, was only now showing an interest.

He added: “How can we have any confidence in a proposal when there is no clear management structure or business plan at the Atrium?” The centre had nothing to gain and the local sporting public a lot to lose.

Councillors were also told by original committee member Pat Johnson that the centre, which has 32,000 users a year enjoying a wide range of activities from badminton to Zumba, exceeded the council budget targets and ploughed surpluses back into improvements.

County councillor Paul Morse said if the district council stepped away from the centre it would be a “major abdication” of its duties.

The council agreed to send a strong letter to the district opposing the switch, decrying the “shabby treatment” of the local committee and urged local users to get up a petition.

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