Race is on to save the Julie Rose

SPRINT FIN­ISH: Time run­ning out for new agree­ment

Kentish Express Ashford & District - - Front Page - by Sarah Mar­shall smar­shall@thek­m­group.co.uk

SADLY it is no April fool that fit­ness classes at the Julie Rose Sta­dium will stop on April 1.

Peo­ple who at­tend the evening and week­end fit­ness classes, most of them from Willes­bor­ough and Ken­ning­ton, ex­pressed huge dis­ap­point­ment when they found out about the cuts ear­lier this week.

Peo­ple have voiced con­cerns that the com­mu­nity is los­ing out on healthy ac­tiv­i­ties and the fo­cus will now be on elite ath­let­ics.

The chair­man of the sta­dium trust said he “re­grets the cuts as we are a pub­lic fa­cil­ity”.

Mean­while, Ash­ford Bor­ough Coun­cil and the Julie Rose Sta­dium Trust (JRST) have still not reached an agree­ment about the sta­dium’s fu­ture and the two par­ties are blam­ing one an­other for the de­lay.

The fu­ture of the sta­dium is hang­ing in the bal­ance as fund­ing has been cut.

The cash-strapped coun­cil was un­able to grant Ash­ford Leisure Trust, which runs both the sta­dium and the Stour Cen­tre, suf­fi­cient fund­ing. The sta­dium trust said un­less the amount was in­creased the sta­dium would close.

More money has since been pledged by the coun­cil but in re­turn for cer­tain con­di­tions, in­clud­ing the JRST hand­ing over £25,000 of its £32,500 re­serves to Ash­ford Leisure Trust, which the sta­dium trust had ear­marked for new equip­ment.

It was ex­pected that the two par­ties would sign an agree­ment at a meet­ing last Mon­day but ad­di­tional con­di­tions were put on the ta­ble which the chair­man of the JRST said he was not in a po­si­tion to im­me­di­ately agree to.

Since then, both the chair­man of the JRST, Cllr Peter Dav­i­son, a for­mer Con­ser­va­tive coun­cil­lor, and now an Ash­ford In­de­pen­dent, and chief ex­ec­u­tive of Ash­ford Bor­ough Coun­cil David Hill, is­sued near iden­ti­cal state­ments, each urg­ing the other to agree to the other’s terms.

Cllr Dav­i­son said: “We urge the coun­cil to be re­spon­sive, and very quickly.”

Mr Hill said: “We urge them to re­spond to our im­proved of­fer swiftly so the un­cer­tainty over the sta­dium can be laid to rest.”

There has been huge pub­lic sup­port for the sta­dium since news of pos­si­ble clo­sure and cuts came to light.

A 700-name pe­ti­tion, which will be de­liv­ered to a meet­ing of Ash­ford Bor­ough Coun­cil’s ex­ec­u­tive tonight (Thurs­day), and a 1,500-mem­ber group on Face­book both show the strength of pub­lic feel­ing.

Cllr Dav­i­son, from the sta­dium trust, also said: “I think a com­mon sense busi­ness ar­range­ment could have been made in a few weeks, this has been go­ing on for five months.”

Mr Hill, head of the coun­cil, said: “We re­main in constructive, pri­vate, ne­go­ti­a­tions with the Julie Rose Sta­dium Trust over fund­ing and have writ­ten to them with a re­vised of­fer that in­cor­po­rates a sig­nif­i­cant in­crease on the fig­ure en­vis­aged in the coun­cil’s agreed bud­get for 2009/10.

“The let­ter also looks to ad­dress the con­cerns ex­pressed by the trust and seeks to find an ac­cept­able way for­ward for all the par­ties in­volved.”

Both par­ties are aware that time is run­ning out. The cur­rent agree­ment be­tween the coun­cil and trust comes to an end on Tues­day.

But if they reach an agree­ment about the sta­dium’s fu­ture it will be af­ter de­ci­sions have been made about jobs.

Staff at the Julie Rose Sta­dium are due to re­ceive let­ters about their jobs to­day (Thurs­day).

The Julie Rose Sta­dium can­cels fit­ness classes

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