Protesters' appeal to Prime Minister to save sports hall
CAMPAIGNERS have called on the Prime Minister to demonstrate his commitment to creating an Olympics legacy by helping to save a sports centre set to undergo a controversial overhaul.
Regular users of the Lords Meadow Leisure Centre in Crediton say £500,000 plans to transform it into a gym and dance studio for group exercise sessions would deprive young people of a venue to nurture talent in a county which has enjoyed inspirational Olympic medal success through diver Tom Daley and champion Lithuanian swimmer Ruta Meilutyte, who train in Plymouth, as well as Sidmouth eventer Mary King.
The plans were approved at district council committee level this summer, after councillors heard of a plan to open school amenities at Queen Elizabeth's Academy to the public. The council says that would increase occupancy levels at both sites.
But Keith Barker, leader of a campaign to save the leisure centre in its current form, has written to David Cameron in the hope the premier will extend his commitment to creating an Olympic legacy by intervening in the plans, which could be rubber-stamped by the full Mid Devon District Council on August 29 – the opening day of the Paralympic Games.
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Mr Barker said: "We have youngsters at national standard in martial arts and badminton and their needs will not be catered for under these plans.
"The decision to close the sports hall means that six Olympic sports will no longer be played there and other activities such as five-a-side football and gentle exercising for older people will also be lost.
"Users of the hall and I think a large majority of the people of Crediton and the villages served by the hall are incensed by the decision and the way in which it is being railroaded through."
Mr Cameron has promised that funding for Olympic sports had been guaranteed until the 2016 Games in Rio de Janeiro. UK Sport will receive £125 million annually for the next four years to maintain funding at the same level as during the run-up to London.
The move is "to reward the success of the UK's outstanding elite sport system" following the British team's record-breaking medal success at London 2012.
The Prime Minister said: "The motto of these Games has been 'inspire a generation'. Nothing has been more inspirational than seeing our elite athletes win gold this summer."
In a statement, Mid Devon council described the leisure centre plans as "a win-win situation".
It added: "We've listened to concerns expressed by clubs and other customers and we are confident that bringing the academy sports hall into the range of facilities we manage would fully address them."