AN online petition calling on Forest MP Mark Harper to back a campaign to stop the closure of the Five Acres leisure centre was signed by more than 1,000 people in its first two days.
With Gloucestershire College leaving the Berry Hill site this summer to move to a new purpose-built campus in Cinderford’s Northern Quarter, the Government quango which now owns Five Acres says it will pull the plug on the leisure centre at the end of October.
That has sparked anger, with Homes England last week accused by Forest Council leader Tim Gwilliam of backtracking on agreements to provide land for the £100m regeneration of the Northern Quarter and a state-of-the-art leisure hub at Five Acres.
Paralympic triathlon champion Andy Lewis from Lydney has thrown his weight behind the campaign to keep the leisure centre open, saying he was “really disappointed… to see the government agency has not lived up to its word.”
Now Clare Richards has launched an online petition for the leisure centre to be saved.
With 1,260 names signatories by yesterday afternoon (Tuesday, June 19), she said: “Without a leisure centre on their doorstep, many people will be forced to travel miles just to keep fit, local children risk losing their right to school swimming lessons as part of the national curriculum, and hundreds of children will have lost the opportunity to play both rugby and football for the local youth teams.”
Appealing to Mark Harper to get involved, she adds: “A group of local people have set up a campaign to save the centre. If thousands of us add our voices, we can demonstrate just how much this centre means to the community, and convince Homes England to pass over ownership of the site.”
Campaign group FANS – Five Acres is Not for Sale – fears the Five Acres site will now be sold for new housing.
Group leader James Elsmore said: “We want Mark Harper to become engaged with the public outcry and get Homes England to honour the agreement made with the Homes and Communities Agency 18 months ago and help us get the funding needed to build a lasting facility on this site.”
Cllr Gwilliam says promises to hand over the Five Acres site to the council for future development are not being kept, putting at risk its development as a sports and leisure hub and the interest of a major hotel chain.
Andy Lewis added: “I am really fed up with some of these government agencies and organisations forgetting people, especially children, in more rural communities. We all need to get together and push back.”
The £100m Northern Quarter regeneration scheme for 1,000 homes, hundreds of jobs, and an £8.8m road and the college has also been potentially derailed, claims Cllr Gwilliam, after Homes England did a ‘U-turn’ on transferring the former Northern United Colliery site at Steam Mils to council ownership with a £175,000 dowry, vital for the completion of the project’s Spine Road.
You can find the Five Acres petition at https://you.38degrees.org.uk/petitions/save-five-acres-site
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