One might have thought that all argument about the sports centre issue would have ended by now. After all, the Council had employed an architect; there had been full public consultation; a site had been chosen after a long council debate; an all party working group had been set up to work out the details of the project and it seemed that the principle had at last been established that the centre would be built. All that remained was the grant of planning permission and a final decision to go ahead after considering the cost.


No chance: the issue is as live as ever, and the essence of the debate has become lost in a smokescreen of  irrelevancies. This article will deal with some of these red herrings:


Firstly, it is suggested that the money should be used for building affordable houses. Well we know how expensive it is to build houses these days: how many houses can be built for a million pounds? Probably less than 10. So, for every million pounds the sports hall will cost, the Council might have built less than 10 houses! As mentioned in an earlier article(Click here to see article), the way to build affordable houses is to use Planning Act powers: not the Council’s own money.


Secondly, it is said that the school is the wrong site – the FitzWilliam site near the Rugby Ground is more appropriate. The Council  engaged a consultant to examine all the possible sites two years ago. He recommended the School Site. The Council accepted his recommendation, and set up a working group to work out the details of that and no other site. By accepting membership of that Working Group, all the Council’s political groups were seen to unite at last behind the school site. For any one political group to go back on that decision now would be nothing but dirty tricks and pure hypocrisy.


Thirdly, there is the view that the Council’s money would be better spent on providing employment land and building factories. Now nobody is arguing that a substantial part of the Council’s £8M should not be spent on building factories, but isn’t it amazing how the campaign for a sports hall has been going on for over 30 years, and, during that time there has never been a campaign by any political party to build factories in Ryedale – until now!


But the argument gets worse. Somehow the working group was persuaded to fund most of the cost of the sports hall from private money, while the cost of the employment projects was to come entirely out of the Council’s own funds, clearly with a view to reduce the Council’s capital commitment to the sports centre project and to  add annual borrowing costs and so make it artificially just a bit more difficult to justify in terms of cost.


Now, one doesn’t have to be a genius to realise that private money is available to fund employment projects, probably more so than sports centres. It is a well known practice to build factories commercially on a sale/lease back  or lease/ lease back basis, whereby the buildings remain under the council’s control, but the investor gets a continuing income from rents. It is obvious that, if the Council’s resources were to be supplemented in this way, many more employment opportunities could be provided than simply by using the Council’s money alone. So, isn’t it strange that the Council’s officers were instructed to find private funding for the sports centre, but were not asked to look into the potential for seeking private funds for employment projects? 


The sports hall would have been eligible for an 80% grant 10 years ago, but this opportunity was just thrown away; one set of consultants was dismissed before they could issue a report; the advice of a second consultant was not accepted, and since then two more consultants have been engaged. Is their advice going to be ignored as well?


Why is there so much controversy over a facility which should receive the support of everybody who shares conventional British values in regard to competitive sport?




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