Warning over threat to Watton Sports Centre’s future

Watton Sports Centre. Picture: Ian Burt

Watton Sports Centre. Picture: Ian Burt - Credit: IAN BURT

A community sports centre could be forced to close if more people do not use its facilities.

Lisa Savage, manager of Watton Sports Centre, warned the facility in Dereham Road could close within 30 months if sports clubs and members of the public do not support it.

The centre is not directly funded by Breckland Council due to an agreement between the authority and Parkwood Leisure, which prevents the council from helping Parkwood's competitors.

'Essentially we are a community facility that doesn't receive funding from the community, so we have to ensure we have enough usage to keep going,' Mrs Savage said.

'We are a charity but we are having to look at running like a business. We can apply for grants for specific things but we need organic growth to ensure we have the necessary usage.

'We are trying to get ourselves out there through advertising. I don't know if people don't know where we are because we are tucked away off Dereham Road.'

The centre has both indoor and outdoor facilities including squash, badminton and tennis courts, as well as space for conferences and social events. There is also a fitness suite and a bar for social events.

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The site includes the Memorial Playing Fields, which were created in memory of those who died in the Second World War.

Mrs Savage said: 'We know there are things that we can do too. There are times when the facilities are not being used during the day.

'I am going to get in touch with local schools to see if they might want to use facilities during the day, perhaps at discounted rates.

'We have the facilities for conferences, we have a functional bar and we have halls that can be hired out for weddings, christenings and birthday parties.'

Mid Norfolk MP George Freeman has held a meeting with Breckland Council and the sports centre in the hope of securing the site's future.

He said there are a lack of youth facilities in the area and that that sports clubs who used the facility could help out by applying for funding from various sporting governing bodies.

Breckland Council leader and Watton councillor Michael Wassell said he believed the sports centre was one of Watton's success stories and that it had great facilities.

He said: 'The people of Watton are very good at doing things for themselves and the sports centre is an example of that.

'It is already successful and the surrounding area and facilities are second to none. The football pitches and rugby pitches are most impressive and scenic and there is a great view from the bar. It has some significant advantages.

'There is a population of about 18,000 in Watton and the surrounding villages and the sports centre needs to be a vibrant hub for that, and it is already doing that.'

He also said the council had supported the centre over the years with a number of grants to help expand and maintain facilities.

Are you fund-raising for a commuity facility? Contact Doug Faulkner at doug.faulkner@archant.co.uk