No detailed talks on sports switch to school

Garstang Community Academy Headteacher Phil Birch
Garstang Community Academy Headteacher Phil Birch

GARSTANG Community Academy headteacher Phil Birch has joined the growing debate over the future of the town’s leisure facilities.

Mr Birch says he has no objection to Wyre Council making use of the academy’s sports centre out of school hours – but has stressed there have been no detailed discussions over any plans to transfer activities from the threatened Windsor Road leisure centre to Bowgreave.

He was speaking as the campaign to save the sports centre from any proposed cuts gathered pace this week, with a petition of hundreds of signatures from centre users, who have also inundated The Courier with letters.

Wyre Council is expected to resume talks soon with Mr Birch, over possibly relocating some sporting activities to the academy, an idea revealed by borough leisure boss Coun Lynne Bowen this summer.

But Mr Birch told the Courier that while there had been initial talks some time ago, over wider community use of the £1million school sport centre, there had not been any further meetings in “quite a few months”.

And, on a note of caution, he added: “The use of the hall is a possible option, but there is no plan, nothing specific at all.”

He added he understood the use of the sports hall by the council was a possible option as part of a public consultation, though Wyre has yet to decide when this consultation will take place.

Mr Birch said: “We haven’t had any recent meetings with Wyre, but our view is that the sports hall is not just for the school, but an integral part of the wider community – not specifically just through Wyre Borough, but a range of groups, parties and organisations.”

The sports hall is in use by community groups during evenings and on weekends, including by an archery club, zumba group and Garstang Table Tennis Club.

But Mr Birch stressed the facility would only be operational for members of the public outside of school hours, adding: “It’s in our interest to seek to promote the hall to various providers and to build good partnerships with as many organisations as we can.”

Council bosses have previously stated that no decisions will be made on the future of Garstang Leisure Centre without a full public consultation, which they say is “likely to start at some point in the current financial year”.

The council has also made it clear that, in the meantime, Garstang Leisure Centre remains open for business.

The centre is run under contract for the council by Fylde Coast YMCA, some of whose staff are believed to be concerned about the impact of possible closure.