I read with interest the Belper News article about the cancellation of the £11.5 million Field Lane Leisure Centre Scheme in Belper.
Such action can easily be justified by the difficult financial climate in which Local Government finds itself, as there are always higher priorities for funding than leisure. However, from the reception desk at Strutts, I find it difficult to believe that there is not the demand for sporting and leisure facilities in the town. Historically Belper was well provided with sports and social clubs by the large employers, including English Cotton, Brettles, Park Foundry, Stevensons, Thorntons, and not forgetting the Strutts with the Gibfield Lane swimming baths. These were followed by local authority facilities, including the Belper Leisure Centre and sports pitches. With the demise of these industries their leisure facilities have gone with them. The Thorntons/Tesco site will probably be used for yet more housing, which will increase the need for significant investment in the social infrastructure that our community needs for its well-being. On the positive side there are a whole range of sporting and leisure activities that are already provided by excellent voluntary groups within the town. They demonstrate the demand but they need investment in the basic facilities. Nobody takes a leisure activity more seriously than those who take part in it, and with talk of the “Big Society”, where communities take the initiative in providing for themselves, surely it would seem in everyone’s interest to consider more investment locally in the voluntary sector. Five years ago ownership of the old Herbert Strutt School site was transferred to our Guardians of Strutts Charity by AVBC and DCC. In my view one of their best decisions to date. We are all volunteers and give our time and effort freely for the benefit of others. At Strutts Community Centre we provide self-funding sports and leisure facilities at no cost to the ratepayers. However, the community would benefit greatly from investment in its restoration and the provision of additional facilities. We are not alone in Belper and perhaps some of the proceeds of the sale of the Field Lane site should be used to revitalise other local sports and leisure facilities.Usually, I end these articles with a request for volunteers to help at Strutts, but please consider helping with any of the voluntary organisations that make our community of Belper a better place to live for all our citizens. You can make a difference.