Norwich sports centre to close by Christmas

A Norwich sports centre is to become one of the first victims of council cutbacks after bosses at County Hall announced the sports hall at Wensum Lodge will be closed within two months.

Letters have been posted to more than 110 groups and individuals, who use the hall in King Street for sports such as badminton, squash and five-a-side football, informing them the sports hall will have to close before Christmas.

The hall will become one of the first casualties of the cuts following the coalition government's spending review, with Norfolk County Council saying it cannot justify paying up to half a million pounds to maintain it at a time when the authority needs to find �155m of savings over three years.

Ann Steward, cabinet member with responsibility for adult education at Norfolk County Council, said: 'The sports hall was built in the 1960s and is really showing its age.

'The current roof now leaks when there is heavy rainfall. If we were to continue to allow the public to use it as they currently do, numerous repairs and upgrades would be needed – some of them urgently – that would in total cost the council an estimated �500,000.

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'This is money the county council cannot justify spending when we're facing a large funding shortfall and having to find huge savings across our services, especially given that the revenue gained from the sports hall doesn't even cover its running costs.

'We have, therefore, decided to permanently close the sports hall on the Wensum Lodge site in Norwich from Sunday, December 19.

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'I know this will come as a blow to the sports clubs and people who currently use it and it's certainly not something we relish doing, but it is one of the 'tough decisions' that everyone has heard so much about.'

She added there was a possibility that the squash courts at Wensum Lodge could yet survive.

She said: 'We are currently talking to the Friends of Wensum Lodge, which is a charitable trust with a long-standing association with the sports hall, about the possibility of them taking over the management of the two squash courts that are connected to the hall.

'The squash courts aren't subject to the same safety concerns that the main hall is so could potentially be kept open for a time should the friends feel able to take this on.

'Although we have to close the sports hall, we are committed to doing all we can to help those people who have enjoyed using it over the years to find somewhere suitable to practise their sport after December.'

Among the alternatives suggested by the county council are sports facilities at a string of schools around the city; the East Anglia Tennis and Squash Club at Lime Tree Road; the Bob Carter Centre in Drayton; Easton College; Norfolk Health and Racquets Club in Drayton High Road, Hellesdon; the Oasis Sports and Leisure Club in Pound Lane, Thorpe St Andrew; and the University of East Anglia Sportspark.

The council has stressed that no jobs would be immediately lost because of the closure of the sports hall and that there were currently no plans to close the rest of Wensum Lodge, which offers adult education courses.

But, as part of Norfolk's Big Conversation, it is proposed that adult education is asked to review and reduce staffing.

Anyone concerned about the sports hall closure at Wensum Lodge should call Judy Youngs, assistant head of service (learner services) at Norfolk Adult Education and Guidance Services, on 01603 306520.

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