Central Ryedale Sports Hall - The Facts : 1 May 2002

As this subject has again been receiving consideration at the District Council, it may be useful to state the present position, from the LibDem viewpoint.

In 1986, Ryedale District Council agreed to construct three community sports halls, one each respectively in the Northern, Central and Southern areas. This was a policy agreed by all political groups.

In 1987/8 the dry sports at Lady Lumley's School was built, in partnership with North Yorkshire County Council, for joint use by the school and the public.

In 1989/90 a dry sports stadium was built as part of the stadium complex at Huntington with money mainly provided by a developer. The project was built in partnership with the York Rugby League Football club.

The policy for the proposed central Ryedale sports hall was that one should be built, provided it was in partnership with others. In 1996, Malton School proposed to build a dry sports hall for joint use by the school and the public, and asked the Council to support their bid for lottery funding. Sport England does not normally provide lottery funding for this kind of project, unless there is joint use by the public. So the school's proposals clearly had to meet the requirements of the council's policy.

Unforthunately, the project then became entangled in the perceived need to replace the Derwent Pool. This is built on land which has become unsound, to the extent that there is differential movement between the pool itself and the structure enclosing it. Over the last 12 or so years, more than 700,000 has been spent on repairs, and this process will have to go on. Eventually the time may come, when the Derwent Pool becomes so expensive to maintain that it will have to be closed. The Council's officers have to give the Council professional advice, and their advice was that it would make sound administrative and financial sense to include a new swimming pool within Malton School's lottery bid and close the Derwent Pool. This would not only save the future capital expense of continuing repairs to the ageing Derwent Pool, but also make revenue savings, by using the same staff to run the administration of both pool and sports hall, when they are both open to the public.

The proposal then met political opposition, because the people of Norton did not want to "lose" their swimming pool. Because of the political implications of replacing the Derwent Pool in Malton, the LibDems became split on the issue, and the local Tories promptly took advantage of the situation at the 1999 local elections. Afterwards, a feasibility study, on which 25,000 had already been spent, was scrapped without anything to show for it, and the LibDems fell back on the original proposal - a dry sports centre.

Another consultant was hired to come up with a sports strategy, and, after being paid 15,000, recommended that the principal indoor sports facility need of the district was a community sports hall in the Malton/Norton catchment area. This recommendation was ignored.

It is now understood that there is another consultant's report identifying the same need. It is this most recent report which also recommends the inclusion of a swimming pool in the project.

If I have to, I could write a further article spelling out all the sad twists in this messy story. I hope this will not be necessary. In this article, I would simply emphasise that what has happened is that a local school has come up with a perfectly reasonble request for assistance with lottery funding which was well within the council's policy requirements. Regrettably this request has been turned down for reasons that have nothing to do with the school.

Ryedale Liberal Democrats understand the reasons for the concern of Council officers about the future viability of the Derwent Pool. However, we also respect the wishes of the people of Norton. So, while we will continue our campaign for a sports hall at Malton School, we will not impose a decision to replace the Derwent Pool on the people of Norton, unless they agree.

Ryedale Liberal Democrats want a community dry sports centre for Malton - the swimming pool is a separate issue

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