Mr J Dewis will present a petition on behalf of 158 signatories regarding the proposed closure of St Ives Squash Courts. The petition statement is as follows:-
“It has recently been advised that Huntingdon District Council has decided to close all the squash courts at the One Leisure St. Ives Outdoor Centre. This would have a devastating effect on the participation levels in the St. Ives area.
This was advised to the St. Ivo Racquets Club (’the club’), the squash and racket ball club based in St. Ives, which operates from the courts. The club aims to encourage affordable community participation in squash and racket ball sports, for social through to county-standard players and from junior to senior levels. It is not-for-profit, run by volunteers.
The club has been advised in a letter from One Leisure dated Friday 22 March 2019, that is after the decision had already been made by the Council. The club has still to view any public records related to this decision. The club is extremely concerned about the lack of a public consultation process prior to this decision being made. Neither the club, representing the largest single group of players, nor individual users have been afforded an opportunity to present the case to continue supporting squash and racket ball facilities in St. Ives.
St. Ives has a long and proud history of squash and racket ball, the St. Ivo Racquets Club formed in 1975. The club has a very low membership fees to encourage participation from the whole community, activities include weekly club nights open to all, where coaching is provided. The club runs two county standard teams, the first team won the Cambridgeshire 2nd division title in March 2019. The courts in St. Ives are some of the last publicly accessible courts in the area. Children have immediate access to affordable facilities for a rewarding sport, which can prepare them both physically and mentally for the future. The sport is universally accepted as a fantastic fitness work out, and its appeal stretches across the ages from the youngest just old enough to hold a racket to those in their seventies. However, courts are needed in St. Ives to provide good local community access.
A functional training facility is proposed in place of the four squash courts. Neither a sporting nor business case for this change of use has been made public yet. There is already a One Leisure gym in St. Ives, the result of a recent multi-million-pound investment.
The last public courts in the area would be two courts at Huntingdon. The additional time and distance for St. Ives based players to travel would inevitably lead to a further decline in participation when the community should expect the opposite for the good of the health and well-being of our community. If the proposed closure goes ahead, St. Ives would have been reduced from eight to no courts in a relatively short time, and Huntingdon / St. Ives combined reduced from ten courts to two.
Community squash can be run successfully from a commercial viewpoint. The St. Neots One Leisure squash courts are well utilised, are in good condition, adequately heated and have long opening hours. It would be ideal if a similar outcome could be achieved for St. Ives. The squash courts at St. Ives can be restored to a valuable community asset.”
The Chairman invited Mr J Dewis to present a petition submitted on behalf of 158 signatories regarding the proposed closure of St Ives Squash Courts.
Mr Dewis opened his address by introducing himself as Chairman of St Ivo Squash Club and provided an outline to Members of the history of the Club with the current facility at One Leisure St Ives Outdoor Centre an active sports facility used by the Club that was unique by virtue of the availability of four identical courts with a viewing balcony. The Club was an active user of the facility and together with school usage contributed to the overall attendance at the facility. He further explained that many other centres had a smaller number of attendees in comparison.
Mr Dewis outlined the Clubs’ devastation and disappointment at the proposed closure of the squash courts following the receipt of an email on 22nd March 2019 informing them of the proposals to repurpose the squash courts to create a ‘Training Shed’ facility. Members further noted their concern that there had been no consultation with the users affected by the proposal and they had not had sight of a Business Plan to support this approach following a refusal of a Freedom of Information request.
Members were appraised with the potential funding required to improve the current squash courts and Mr Dewis also provided background to previous funding, including a grant that had contributed to the upkeep of the venue over the years. Despite the drop in usage over the last few years, Members were advised that the Club had 320 current squash users and suggested that an easy solution to improve the facility to increase participation was to replace the flooring in the venue.
Mr Dewis concluded his remarks by outlining their willingness to work with the Council and One Leisure to support the continuance of provision of such a facility that was vital to the diversity of sports, as well as being vital for the health and well-being of residents.
Councillor J M Palmer, Executive Councillor for Partnerships and Well-Being, thanked Mr Dewis for his submission and recommended that he be invited to present his proposal to the Overview and Scrutiny Panel (Customers and Partnerships) with comments forwarded onto the Cabinet for a final decision on the re-purposing of the squash courts, whereby the points raised in his submission would be given full consideration.
Councillor T D Alban, Chairman of the Overview and Scrutiny Panel (Customers and Partnerships) invited Mr Dewis to make a presentation to their Panel at their meeting on 13th June 2019.