Green push to save Clifton Hill sports centre

1 January 2019

Exeter Green Party have formally asked Exeter City Council to reverse their ill-judged decision to close down Clifton Hill Sports Centre. But Exeter's Labour administration refused to listen to facts or local opinion.

A motion by Green councillor, Chris Musgrave, calling on Exeter City Council to reverse its controversial decision to sell off and demolish the Clifton Hill sports centre, was rejected by Labour councillors at last night’s full Council meeting [1].  

The decision to close the Clifton Hill Sports Centre, demolish the building and sell the adjacent driving range, ski slope and Exeter Small Bore Rifle Club areas as a single development has created huge public uproar. The decision was made without public consultation, which has angered local residents. A campaign to try and prevent the closure has received support from many city residents [2] and 1,800 supporters signed a petition objecting to the closure of the centre. A further petition calling for the council to retain ownership of the land surrounding the sports centre and “keep it green”has received 500 signatures which were collected door-to-door by the Save the Clifton Hill Green Space group. 

In the motion to full Council, Cllr Musgrave pointed to inaccuracies in an Executive report in June which underestimated the number of residents who made use of the sports centre facilities and the fact it failed to describe the land surrounding the sports centre, including its size and amenity value.

Cllr Musgrave said:

“I am hugely disappointed that so many residents have once again been badly let down by the Labour-run Council tonight. My call on the Council to reverse the decision to close this much-used sports centrefell on deaf ears [3]. 

“A complacent Exeter Labour have pushed through this decision despite huge public outcry. This whole affair is mired in a litany of unanswered questions, half-truths and misinformation [4]. This decision to demolish the sports centre and flog-off surrounding land was taken prematurely before a council consultation on the future of Physical Activity and Built Facilities strategies had taken place. As to St Sidwell Point providing an alternative, this is disingenuous since it will be a leisure facility, not a Sports facility.

“This is also a failure of privatisation. The council should pursue Legacy Leisure for the cost of the maintenance that they should have supplied over the last 10 years and so keep Clifton Hill open.

“Residents expect and deserve better from their counciland are tired of councillors who disregards local opinion. I for one am committed to representing residents and keeping this campaign on the Council agenda."

ENDS

 

Notes

[1] Text of the motion can be seen here: http://committees.exeter.gov.uk/ieListDocuments.aspx?CId=114&MId=5799&fbclid=IwAR3HPydvHk0qFiQ1TUaRmkr8BJ1SxoEyvop7jJMKQc4vVVwxxvGclq28FU4

[2] https://www.facebook.com/savecliftonhillsportscentre/?tn-str=k*F

[3] Speech to move the motion by Cllr Chris Musgrave to Full Council meeting 18th December 2018:

I am pleased and proud to be moving this motion on behalf of the Green Party and the ‘Save Clifton Hill’ campaign group.

Often as a council we complain that ordinary people have lost interest in politics. However, as can be seen tonight there are a great many people interested politics, and in saving Clifton Hill.

Over 1800 people have signed the 38 degrees petition demanding this important community hub be protected and maintained.

This motion comes before Council tonight because the decision to close and sell off Clifton Hill was made in haste.

The promise of a new facility at St Sidwell’s point is simply not good enough for local residents as it will not replace the sports facilities lost at Clifton Hill.

Moreover, given the problems this project has encountered along the way; can we even be sure it will ever get built?

Residents have contacted me saying the sports offer in the city has declined to such an extent they and their 30 strong group of regular badminton players have been forced to stop playing altogether.

The report upon which this Council based its decision to sell Clifton Hill was riddled with inaccuracies and false information.

The report played down the number of users at Clifton Hill by more than a half.

The report also stated Clifton Hill’s roof now beyond repair: estimated cost of replacement @£1million.

This figure is at odds with other figures which report the cost of repairs including the roof at £700k.

Even this figure is still more than the most recent survey report which suggests the actual figure is less than £600k including the roof covering replacement.

The report have the impression that these escalating figures came from a structural survey of Clifton Hill.

Following a recent FOI request we now know that no actual reliable accredited survey has been conducted on Clifton Hill since 2016.

We can therefore safely conclude these figures are just uneducated guesses designed to make the situation appear worse than it actually is.  

Especially when we consider the only actual reliable survey confirmed the roof was in reasonable condition and predicted no works would be required in the next 5 years.

This council has also claimed that a new roof will not extend Clifton Hill’s lifespan.  

We know that this is inaccurate. As a new roof could result in a further 20-25 years of use.

The fact is this administration is preparing to pump more and more money into the failing St Sidwell’s project, literally to the detriment of everything else.

We were also told there was a backlog of maintenance and repairs estimated in region of £500k.  This is inaccurate as costs based on the most recent actual survey undertaken, suggest these costs are closer to half of this amount.  

This backlog only exists because this administration has allowed the private operator Legacy Leisure the charitable arm of Parkwood Leisure to run our facility into the ground.

This is a failure of privatisation and a cover up of this failure by this council. I say we pursue Legacy Leisure for the cost of the maintenance they should have supplied over the last 10 years and keep Clifton Hill open.

The council's primary statement says we will meet local communities’ aspirations. The local community aspiration is to save Clifton Hill.

Labour members will decide how this vote proceeds tonight. I’m aware that through the Labour Whip you have all be instructed to oppose this motion. I call on all of you to vote with your conscience and not with the Whip.

[4] A blog post by Chris Musgrave explores some of the many questions and controversies surrounding the decision to close and sell-off the Clifton Hill sports centre site: https://privatisedeye.wordpress.com/2018/06/26/the-fall-of-labour/?fbclid=IwAR0ORYZveqDKz5fJ0R7W2CGDgrpRJBCvi9q23NaouNUc38KtLrEPG1ZY-4U

 

Contact: Cllr Chris Musgrave:  07872301974