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Watton Sports Centre managers determined to keep facility open despite funding struggle

Watton Sports Centre. Picture: Ian Burt

Watton Sports Centre. Picture: Ian Burt

Archant © 2014

Managers of a community-run leisure centre are determined it will remain open despite an ongoing struggle to secure funding.

Watton Sports Centre has been left struggling to balance its books this year due to falling membership numbers and unexpected repair bills.

The volunteer-run centre is the only sports and leisure facility in Breckland’s main towns not covered by a PFI deal which the district council struck with Parkwood Leisure in 2005.

After receiving an offer of help from the council – which risks financial penalties if funding it gives to the sports centre is seen to commercially hurt any of Parkwood’s facilities – trustees of the centre are exploring available funding options.

Despite financial pressures, vice-chair of the board of trustees John Daly is adamant the centre will remain open.

He said if half the population of Watton – around 4,000 people – joined the sports centre on Dereham Road, its money troubles would be solved.

“We will not close, whatever the views might be around and about. The trustees and staff are determined that we are going to keep running, and we have very dedicated staff.

“I think it is a facility the town needs to keep and I am passionate about maintaining it.

“It is a centre run by volunteers for the people of Watton. If they want the facilities to stay, they have to use them.”

Mr Daly said Breckland Council had offered the sports centre the chance to bid for capital grant funding for specific projects, such as the renovation of its degrading artificial pitches.

Funding in the centre’s reserves have been depleted by building repairs, including to roof leaks and the air conditioning system.

A spokesperson for Breckland Council said a “very positive meeting” had taken place between a committee from the sports centre and council officers.

“We discussed various ways in which the sports centre could potentially be made more sustainable, including through the development of new business plans and accessing various funding streams.

“Breckland is committed to offering further advice and support to the centre’s management and we look forward to meeting with them again early in the New Year to progress these discussions further.”

The sports centre trustees are meeting with Sport Norfolk in January to see what funding options may be available through the organisation and are also planning to consult businesses around Watton.

Have you got a Watton story? Email bethany.whymark@archant.co.uk

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