Track and Field in West Cornwall under 'serious threat' if track sold off claims club
The fight to save the athletics track at the Carn Brea Leisure Centre from being sold off for development is gathering momentum.
Cornwall Council officers have put together a report recommending the track be sold off to help pay for the refurbishment of the Leisure Centre and the report is due to be considered by the communities overview and scrutiny committee on Wednesday and then is scheduled to go to Cabinet a week later.
It was also proposed that an alternative track be provided within Camborne, Pool or Redruth with Camborne Science and International Academy (CSIA) suggested as one alternative site.
But in a statement issued today, Alan Rowling, chairman of Cornwall AC, the principal users of the track, said that the future of Track and Field athletics in West Cornwall was under serious threat if the plans went ahead.
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He said: "The athletic track at the Carn Brea has been the main centre of athletics in the county for the past 39 years, since the Leisure Centre was opened in 1974, when it was the home of the Duchy of Cornwall Athletic Club and West Cornwall Athletic Club, before the two clubs merged in 1982 to form Cornwall AC."
The facility is not only used by Cornwall AC but by other clubs such as Hayle Runners, whose chairman Alan Shepherd said: "Hayle Runners is concerned about the potential loss of the track facility at Carn Brea. We have over 300 members from eight to 80 years old and we are regular users of the track. Any suggestion of moving the track must ensure that we have an improved facility in West Cornwall in place before any change is made."
Mr Rowling added: "The athletics track is central to the sporting needs of the entire West Cornwall region and not just the Camborne, Pool and Redruth area.
"Further and Higher Education Colleges, Secondary Schools and Primary Schools use Carn Brea for both curriculum PE and competition, including school Sports days.
"What the present site offers is use of the Leisure facilities for the whole family when one member of the family comes for athletics training or competition and another goes for a swim or even just go for a coffee.
"This type of facility therefore appeals to parents and their children rather than having to trudge to a relocated running track on some bleak field offering little or no additional facilities.
"The track has had a considerable investment a few years ago when it was resurfaced and is now in much better condition than for some time, with no major cost implication for the next ten years. Surely this scale of investment needs to be looked after rather than bulldozed out of existence.
"Officers at Cornwall Council (CC) have produced a report which includes the following recommendations:-
"1. The renegotiation of the terms of the 99 year lease to the Carn Brea Leisure Trust be authorised in order to allow the site of the running track to be sold and the leisure centre to be refurbished.
"2. The completion of a contract to effect the sale of the land shown thickly edged on the plan attached at Appendix 1 be authorised, subject to the capital receipt policy being waived and part of the Cornwall Council receipt being used to fund the relocation of the running track within Camborne, Pool or Redruth.
"The report identifies Camborne School, correctly known as Camborne Science and International Academy (CSIA), as a possible site for relocation but the site would be a far from the 'like for like' facility at the present site adjacent to the Leisure Centre.
"The specific site identified poses access difficulties and is located on the furthest reaches of Camborne's playing fields, some 600 metres form the school buildings.
"Providing a 'like for like' facility here would cost considerably more than a facility shared with a replacement Leisure Centre.
"Representatives of the Athletic Club have spoken to the two CC officers who produced the report and feel that insufficient work has been done to cost the move, which surely should have been a key part of the process before recommendations are made to the councillors who sit on the relevant Scrutiny Committees.
"This entire process seems to be rushed through with the speed of a sprinter, with CC only intent on disposing of the site, refurbishing rather than rebuilding a new Leisure Centre and pocketing surplus capital receipts.
"In addition, it is worth noting that Camborne is an Academy, which means it is funded by central government and not Cornwall Council. The school would then be in a position to close the facility if it was not making a profit and profitability would present a huge challenge to the school.
"Central Government could also close it, as it would be out of CC's control. Could CC be looking to off load this facility and the financial implications of all future managements costs?"
Mr Rowling said that Cornwall Athletic Club was the largest and most successful athletic club in the county and in 2011 was voted the South West Club of the Year and at the 2011 Cornwall Sports Partnership annual awards was voted Cornwall's Adult Club Year and this award was open to all sports.
Since it's formation in 1982, the club had produced 27 international athletes, covering a wide age range from Seniors to Young Athletes.
This group included Helen Glover, who went onto Olympic rowing gold.
Membership currently stands at more 250 from the age of nine to the oldest competing member aged 72.
"We have experienced a noticeable increase in membership since the Olympics and for the first time in the history of the club, have needed to open a waiting list for the younger age groups," said Mr Rowling.
"Recently as a part of the success of the Paralympics we have been working with the Cornwall Sports Partnership Inclusion Officer to promote Athletics for the Disabled and are very concerned about the access for wheel chair athletes at the proposed new Track and Field venue.
"Our catchment area for members extends from Truro westwards and athletes will travel to Carn Brea for training and competition from as far a field as Sennen, the Lizard, St Ives Falmouth.
" Essentially from the whole of the western half of the county.
"Where will they be able pursue their chosen sport if the athletics facility ceases to exist in this part of the county or is located at a site with difficult access and no additional facilities provided. This is very much about ensuring suitable athletic provision for the entire community.
"The club is extremely inclusive welcoming athletes from other clubs to train with our club athletes on Tuesday evenings. Many take up this opportunity, including an increasing number from Triathlon Clubs and Surf Life Saving Clubs.
"In addition many of those welcomed into our training groups are not members of clubs and join our groups purely in order to improve their fitness and general well being."
Cornwall AC is also a member of the county wide Duchy Athletic Network and its chairman, Andy Moore said: "The track at Carn Brea is a key part of the sports infrastructure in West Cornwall offering a facility for athletes of all standards to train, practice and compete in a purpose built environment.
"Any proposal to relocate the track needs to continue to meet the needs of Mid and West Cornwall and be part of a well considered proposal with the long term sustainability of the facility as a key objective."
Mr Rowling continued: The Athletic Club, as the principal user of the athletic Track at Carn Brea, has sadly at no time been involved directly in any discussion regarding this proposal with the CC officers and yet this proposal could be taken to the CC Cabinet within the next two weeks, while the council sits in indecision on the old Richard Lander School site, which must be the most lucrative piece of real estate in the county.
"Our club invites any councillor or CC officer to visit us at Carn Brea on any Tuesday evening between 6.30 and 8.00 to see just how much the track is in use and how many children are involved as well as adults, with some of them also use the indoor facilities at Carn Brea during the winter.
"This is a significant plus point for the club and for parents with all our winter training taking place on the same site."