Council takes over sport centre to prevent high school ‘subsidising’ use

PUBLISHED: 13:02 10 December 2019 | UPDATED: 13:46 10 December 2019

The official opening of the new Framingham Earl sports centre. Photo: Adrian Judd

The official opening of the new Framingham Earl sports centre. Photo: Adrian Judd

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A Norfolk council is set to take over the management of a sports centre after a high school said it wanted to stop “subsidising the community use of the facility”.

The official opening of the new Framingham Earl sports centre. Photo: Adrian JuddThe official opening of the new Framingham Earl sports centre. Photo: Adrian Judd

Framingham Earl Community Sports Centre (FECSC), in Poringland, has been managed by Framingham Earl High School since its opening in 2006.

And South Norfolk Council, which contributed £365,000 to the building of the centre and had a seat on the management group, is now set to take over the running of the centre, which saw footfall of more than 13,000 in 2016-17.

It comes after the school joined the Sapientia Education Trust, who "identified that FECSC could be operating more efficiently".

A report brought before South Norfolk cabinet on Monday, December 9, stated: "The school [is] effectively subsidising the community use of the facility.

"The subsidy that the school had been making in previous academic years is not sustainable.

"We could expect the Trust to seriously consider removing the community use of the facility."

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Mark Heazle, community leisure manager at the council, said: "An approach was made about managing the facility on behalf of the school.

"The facility plays an important role locally. We see this as a real opportunity to expand the breadth of activities at the centre."

John Fuller, Conservative leader of the council, said: "This is a situation where we shouldn't be satisfied with 13,000 visitors.

"It seems to me that we should not just be satisfied in getting to 25,000 visitors as a stretch target. There's going to have to be some changes to the timetable to allow more people and new groups to participate in sports."

Alison Thomas, Conservative member for Long Stratton, said: "The county council was probably not aware that it was supporting the community use of this facility to the extent that it was.

"The education budget should be spent on education."

She added: "It's a win-win. I hope we see this grow in the future and we'll be sitting here in a few years time saying 'the growing community of Poringland has a well run leisure facility'."

Councillors agreed to enter into an arrangement with the trust to take on the management of the leisure centre, which includes a four-court sports hall, mirrored dance studio, and floodlit artificial grass pitch. The agreement will cover an initial period of five years, beginning in April 2020.

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