Fight to keep sports centre open

A message to Rother from Labour's Sarah Owen at the Rye Sports Centre

Sarah Owen, the Labour choice to fight Amber Rudd for the Hastings and Rye seat, joined a “Save Rye Sports Centre” protest on Friday January 9. Conservative-controlled Rother District Council is considering withdrawing a £178,000 subsidy. Without it, the centre would need to cut back on hours, or part of its services – such as the pool – or close altogether, said a local Labour Party press release. Among those at the protest were Labour party candidates standing in the Rother elections in May including Nick Warren, Ray Prewer, Cheryl Creaser and Charles Harkness. Dan Lake, chairman of the Tilling Green Residents’ Association, was also there in support.

“Options being examined by the council include encouraging other providers, such as Rye Academy, to take on part of the service,” it added.

Before the centre opened, local fundraisers under the name of  Rye Swimming Pool Association, put more than £30,000 into the build. Steve Blattman, a former pool association member, said: “We spent years campaigning for this centre and I find it bizarre that Rother District Council wants to withdraw funding for it. If it pulls out it will be disastrous for our community.

“I question the priorities on where money is spent. You see massive levels of investment in other parts of Rother – we do seem to be the poor relation of Bexhill. We all benefit from its continued use and support – the positive health benefits have a knock-on to the NHS and social care. The council needs to think again.”

Sarah Owen said: “Swimmers of all ages have expressed their fears over the future of the pool. I am saddened that Rother has not sought to involve local people in this decision – especially those who raised so much money for it – and urge them to let people in Rye have their say. Questions need to be asked of the Conservatives in charge at Rother as to why people in Rye could face losing their pool when investment is available elsewhere? I for one will be doing what I can to prevent the closure of any service at the centre.”

Owen has set up a petition for people to sign at her website. The sports centre is operated by Freedom Leisure.

Photo: Tony Nunn